After last month's plot to send bombs from Yemen to the United States aboard a cargo plane, former U.S. Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff's whiskerless visage was ubiquitous on cable news. Solemnly warning that the nation needed stronger security procedures, Chertoff patiently repeated his talking points on ABC News's "World News Tonight", "Fox and Friends", CNBC's "Squawk Box" and Bloomberg TV.
Almost unmentioned in these appearances: Chertoff has a lot to gain financially if some of these measures are adopted. Between his private consulting firm, The Chertoff Group, and seats on the boards of giant defense and security firms, he sits at the heart of the giant security nexus created in the wake of 9/11, in effect creating a shadow homeland security agency. Chertoff launched his firm just days after President Barack Obama took office, eventually recruiting at least 11 top officials from the Department of Homeland Security, as well as former CIA director General Michael Hayden and other top military brass and security officials.
(Chertoff's predecessor at DHS, Tom Ridge, has also parlayed his experience into a lucrative career. Since 2005, he has served on the board of Savi Technology, the primary technology provider for the Pentagon's wireless cargo-monitoring network, and he has served as a senior advisor to TechRadium, Inc., a Texas-based security technology company.)
Chertoff's clients have prospered in the last two years, largely through lucrative government contracts, and The Chertoff Group's assistance in navigating the complex federal procurement bureaucracy is in high demand. One example involves the company at the heart of the recent uproar over intrusive airport security procedures -- Rapiscan, which makes the so-called body scanners. Back in 2005, Chertoff was promoting the technology and Homeland Security placed the government's first order, buying five Rapiscan scanners.
After the arrest of the underwear bomber last Christmas, Chertoff hit the airwaves and wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post advocating the full-body scanning systems without disclosing that Rapiscan Systems was a client of his firm. The aborted terror plot prompted the Transportation Security Agency to order 300 machines from Rapiscan. Yet last spring, the Government Accountability Office reported that, "It remains unclear whether [the scanners] would have been able to detect the weapon" used in the aborted bombing attempt. And according to a recent report by DHS's Inspector General, the training of airport screeners is rushed and poorly supervised.
In the past year and a half, $118 million in stimulus funds have been used to buy technology from Rapiscan, but all that money hasn't produced many jobs -- the ostensible purpose of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. In fact, it accounts for only 84 positions, according to a HuffPost analysis of government data, meaning roughly $1.4 million was spent to create each job.
Rapiscan has upped its lobbying expenditures in recent years, spending $271,500 so far this year compared to $80,000 five years ago, USA Today reports. As a measure of the firm's influence, one of the honored guests accompanying President Obama on his recent trip to India was Deepak Chopra, the president and CEO of OSI Systems, which owns Rapiscan. India plans to install the scanners at its airports in the wake of the 2008 Mumbai attacks.