Spend Millions First, Assess Privacy Later

Funding science and technology is a panacea — the way out of a recession, the way to compete with Red Russia or China, etc…The theft of billions of dollars from taxpayers and giving it to universities and corporations is hailed as an “investment.” Every once in awhile, a conservative points out what might be a wasteful expenditure, but then progressives denounce the rube as anti-science.

Even the evil project that occasionally gets exposed does little to change the perception that government must and should fund science. Well, here’s another outrage that will probably have zero effect on the current science culture. Before airport body scanners were on the radar of many freedom-loving Americans, Homeland Security was figuring out the next step for brutal assassination of the Fourth Amendment.

The Homeland Security Department paid contractors millions of dollars to develop and study surveillance systems that could covertly track pedestrians and check under people’s clothing with airport-style body scanners as they enter train stations, bus depots or major events, newly released documents show.

Thanks to the work of EPIC, we now know about these projects. And it is hard to even imagine how this could be in line with basic privacy protections (let alone public health concerns). But, for the brilliant folks at DHS, they claim innocence: after all, as a DHS mouthpiece told USA Today, the projects were dropped (i.e., not extended) “before we even got to the privacy assessment phase.” I suppose when basic common sense, let alone the text of the Constitution, is intentionally avoided as a matter of policy, it’s hard to complete the privacy assessment phase before spending millions to figure out how to look through the clothing and bags of every man, woman, and child in a given location.

H/T Mark Fee.


7:53 am on March 6, 2011