'Tis The Season To Fail To Catch Contraband And Explosive Devices At TSA Checkpoints

from the ho-ho-ho-now-I-have-an-explosive-precursor dept

Just in time for the travel season to kick in, the TSA is operating at peak efficiency. Streamlining travelers’ pre-boarding procedures this year — just like every year preceding it — will be the agency’s inability to keep dangerous items from making their way onboard.

Two years ago, the TSA’s Inspector General discovered it could sneak contraband — including explosive devices — past the agency’s pizza box recruits 95% of the time. A follow-up audit two years later was just as unimpressive. The IG’s “Red Team” audit team called it quits after sneaking 17 of 18 forbidden items past TSA screeners. At 94.4%, it’s hard to tell whether this is the TSA’s idea of improvement or just the result of a smaller sample size. (The first audit team made 70 smuggling attempts, succeeding 67 times.) Theoretically, given enough attempts, the TSA may have been able to push this number much closer to 100%.

Good news of a sort then: the latest screening sting operation shows exponential improvement by TSA screeners. The problem is multiples of super-low numbers still result in large amounts of failure.

In recent undercover tests of multiple airport security checkpoints by the Department of Homeland Security, inspectors said screeners, their equipment or their procedures failed more than half of the time, according to a source familiar with the classified report.

When ABC News asked the source familiar with the report if the failure rate was 80 percent, the response was, “You are in the ballpark.”

And that ballpark is the Mendoza Line. The TSA can now tell travelers it’s capable of batting .200 against would-be terrorists, just as airports begin to see increased amounts of air travel. And that’s only at the airport tested. Your travel safety mileage may vary, depending on point of departure.

The report itself remains classified for the time being, presumably at the request of the terminally-embarrassing agency. Hopefully, the Inspector General won’t allow this to remain buried for much longer or redacted to uselessness by America’s perennial underachiever.

As for the TSA, it says it’s definitely going to be buckling down and taking travel safety seriously.

“We take the OIG’s findings very seriously and are implementing measures that will improve screening effectiveness at checkpoints,” said TSA administrator David Pekoske. “We are focused on staying ahead of a dynamic threat to aviation with continued investment in the workforce, enhanced procedures and new technologies,” he added.

It is to LOL. This is a carbon copy of statements made after every egregious security failure by the TSA. The last few years of screening failures show little in the way of improvement. As for “staying ahead of dynamic threats,” the TSA certainly can’t do that when un-dynamic threats can walk past checkpoints carrying explosive devices. And the TSA isn’t actually known for “staying ahead” of anything. Every new dehumanizing procedure and item added to the no-fly list is the result of threats screeners didn’t catch before they boarded planes and wreaked havoc.

These are all just words meant to make the agency sound like it truly wishes to serve some higher purpose. But the facts flatly contradict the assertions made by the TSA in the wake of multiple successive failures.

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Comments on “'Tis The Season To Fail To Catch Contraband And Explosive Devices At TSA Checkpoints”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Staying ahead

As for "staying ahead of dynamic threats," the TSA certainly can’t do that when un-dynamic threats can walk past checkpoints carrying explosive devices.

Unless dynamic threats are the only threats they can detect. If they’re not going to tell us what "dynamic" means, who are we to disagree?

We’d still save more lives (and some money) by having them watch for falling bookcases.

Designerfx (profile) says:

it's laughable

I don’t even bother trying to follow their restrictions on sizing of materials anymore, and about 1 in 10 trips they find something in my luggage to confiscate (normal toothpaste! OMG!) etc.

I wish flying didn’t involve the TSA, because the Theater of Security in Aviation is as much a failure as it’s ever been.

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