By Keith Laing - 03/16/11 05:57 PM EDT
Republicans on a House subcommittee on Wednesday lambasted body scanners and pat-downs used by the Transportation Security Administration.
"The equipment is flawed and can be subverted," House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) said. "Our staff has subverted it. (TSA Administrator) Pistole said 'GAO is very clever.' Well what the hell does he think a terrorist is?"
"Most folks know they're not going to touch your junk," Mica said.
After receiving withering criticism from lawmakers earlier in the day for not wanting to share a panel with other witnesses, TSA officials defended their technology Wednesday.
"The technology is vital to our ability to keep airline passengers safe in a post-9/11 world," TSA Assistant Administrator for Security Technology Robin Kane told the panel after a testy debate about rescheduling the agency's testimony.
"Mr. Chairman, the threat is everywhere," Kane continued. "Our security measures must focus on the threat of tomorrow, not the threat of yesterday."
The panel appeared unconvinced. Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) compared the pat-downs now being used as part of airport security screening measures to sexual assault.
"There are many of us who believe this would be deemed a sexual assault on a person," he said.
Chaffetz said TSA was too willing to use new technologies, when they could instead use things like bomb-sniffing dogs.
"Sometimes there's nothing like a good old-fashioned German shepherd," he said. "We've lulled ourselves into a false sense of security that these machines are safe; that they work."
Earlier in the meeting, some members of the panel said the scans were ineffective because every passenger was not examined. Former Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for Policy Stewart Baker defended the randomization, saying that knowing a scan was possible acted as a deterrent for would-be terrorists.
"People are willing to blow themselves up and you think they're worried about getting caught," House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) responded incredulously.
Baker said that threat is why TSA had to act aggressively.
"We cannot start this conversation with what we'd like TSA to do. We have to start with what Al Qaeda would like to do. We know Al Qaeda wants to blow up planes," he said.
Even that did not sway Issa, however.
"This committee has serious doubts about the effectiveness, efficiency and authority of some of the things that you are doing," Issa said. "I was there on 9/11. I remember listening to President Bush say that it wouldn't change America, but I'm afraid that it has."