Taking The 'S' Out Of 'TSA:' Minneapolis Screeners Fail To Detect Contraband 94% Of The Time

from the human-equivalent-of-nothing-at-all dept

A couple of years ago, the DHS's Inspector General set out to see if the TSA could actually do the one thing it was supposed to do: prevent weapons and explosives from being brought onboard. This was the result:

According to officials briefed on the results of a recent Homeland Security Inspector General’s report, TSA agents failed 67 out of 70 tests [95%], with Red Team members repeatedly able to get potential weapons through checkpoints. In one test an undercover agent was stopped after setting off an alarm at a magnetometer, but TSA screeners failed to detect a fake explosive device that was taped to his back during a follow-on pat down. Officials would not divulge the exact time period of the testing other than to say it concluded recently.

95 out 100 terrorists agree: the TSA is doing a bang-up job making travel safer. Now, the DHS is insisting foreign airports start buckling down on security or start subjecting fliers to a variety of inconvenient bans. However, it hasn't had much to say about the insecurity of domestic airports, where things have progressed less-than-incrementally since the last Red Team audit.

When put to the test, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport failed 95 percent of security tests conducted at the airport last week, according to Fox 9 sources. [Fox has a rounding error: 17 of 18 is 94.4%]

Last Thursday, what’s referred to as the “Red Team” in town from Washington D.C., posed as passengers and attempted to sneak items through security that should easily be caught.

In most cases, they succeeded in getting the banned items though. 17 out of 18 tries by the undercover federal agents saw explosive materials, fake weapons or drugs pass through TSA screening undetected.

That percentage could conceivably have been worse. According to Fox 9, the Red Team stopped the audit once it hit the 95% threshold. Even the most sociopathic of us finds it uncomfortable to watch supposedly-trained people fail over and over at the one task they've been assigned.

Fox also points out the MSP team has failed before, albeit somewhat less spectacularly. Last year, TSA screeners missed 9 of 12 weapons/explosives. Since that previous low water mark, security has only gotten worse.

The TSA's response? To borrow a gun from someone who got past the screeners in order to shoot the messenger.

When asked about Thursday’s failing grade, the TSA said, “TSA cannot confirm or deny the results of internal tests and condemns the release of any information that could compromise our nation’s security."

Hey, TSA: it's not the release of information that's compromising national security. It's your employees. If they did their job competently, there'd be nothing to report.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jul 2017 @ 12:00pm

    and condemns the release of any information that could compromise our nation’s security."

    Well, obviously the release of this report compromises security, it points out just how useless those terorist repelling agents really are.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jul 2017 @ 12:01pm

    If they did their job competently, there'd be nothing to report.

    If they disappeared entirely, it's likely there would still be nothing to report. Except that we'd save a ton of money, everyone would be happier, and the total number of deaths would decrease because people wouldn't have to drive to avoid airline security.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 12 Jul 2017 @ 12:05pm

    "the Red Team stopped the audit once it hit the 95% threshold"

    "according to Fox 9 sources. [Fox has a rounding error: 17 of 18 is 94.4%]"

    So the auditors did not reach the threshold, the stopped the audit before the threshold could be exceeded.

    The lesson learned? If you want to get nail clippers or more than a few ounces of liquid past TSA security, your best bet is to disguise them as explosive devices.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jul 2017 @ 12:23pm

    Affirmative action at its best.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jul 2017 @ 12:25pm

    bears repeating...

    "trained people fail over and over at the one task they've been assigned."

    Never underestimate peoples ability to do this, EVER!
    When someone puts an "expert" on the stand I always ask... and expert in what? Bullshit? They are no more an expert than I am. The basic ability to reason and understand your own ignorance will make you more expert than anyone on anything!

    Knowledge if but a tool and it can be used for good or bad, and that itself begins with the premise that the person with the knowledge actually has "correct" knowledge. A LOT of people die at the hands of "trained professionals" called Dr's all year long. They die at the hands of trained drivers, and they die at the hands of trained idiots looking for those R's and D's on the ballots!

    Where were we? O'yea... trained TSA idiots with no other motivation than to just perform their part in the "Theater Show" called "National Security", the grand opera by which citizens willingly let their nations descend into tyranny!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Toom1275 (profile), 12 Jul 2017 @ 12:31pm

      Re: bears repeating...

      TSA agents are trained in reading pizza box ads.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 12 Jul 2017 @ 12:47pm

        Re: Re: bears repeating...

        how many fucking pizza boxes goes through security checkpoints?

        then again, with those wait times I might order a pizza myself? If I was crazy enough to go through that shit.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      SirWired (profile), 12 Jul 2017 @ 2:47pm

      Errr... wha?

      "The basic ability to reason and understand your own ignorance will make you more expert than anyone on anything!"

      Let me see if I follow this thought process... critical thinking skills make somebody, literally, the smartest person on the planet? But what if more than one person has those skills? And experience and study count for nothing? Under any circumstances? What if one has experience, study, AND critical thinking skills?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jul 2017 @ 12:58pm

    let me suggest that this program accomplishes exactly what it is intended to accomplish. we just don't know what it is intended to accomplish.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jul 2017 @ 1:02pm

    Security theater is just like DRM. It only inconveniences people who are doing everything correct and not trying to get around it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DB (profile), 12 Jul 2017 @ 1:04pm

    I unintentionally learned a trick.

    Put a can of soda in your bag. The TSA clerk will be so enthralled with scolding you and confiscating the can they will completely ignore anything else in the bag.

    This once saved a Leatherman knife that I had forgotten to remove from my bag.

    Another trick is to go during a time with long lines. Sure, you'll waste a half hour in the security line. But the checks will be perfunctory, with most of the TSA effort going to yelling at people to remove their shoes/belts/jackets. (People that fly once every few years legitimately don't know the arbitrary rules. Yelling doesn't help.)

    The worst time is when there are few people, as the TSA intentionally slows down processing so that there is always a line. How does doing a triple-good search then improve overall security?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Jul 2017 @ 1:21pm

      Re:

      The worst time is when there are few people, as the TSA intentionally slows down processing so that there is always a line. How does doing a triple-good search then improve overall security?

      When there are few fliers, it is much more important to catch contraband because a successful attack would be much more embarrassing to the TSA. On the other hand, if a plane full to overcrowding is attacked because of a TSA failure, there will have been so many passengers that TSA can claim someone must have slipped past in the confusion of screening so many passengers so efficiently.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Mark Gisleson, 12 Jul 2017 @ 1:19pm

    TSA hiring

    I was still writing resumes when TSA was started up. Several clients, some working for TSA, insisted the Mpls TSA was run by a religious nut who gave his parishioners first shot at new postings and promotions.

    This sounds like the obvious outcome. Bush-Cheney, among many other horrible things, gutted all objectivity and professionalism from federal hiring. We're all the way back to hiring those who know (or blow) the boss.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Whoever, 12 Jul 2017 @ 1:47pm

    Drugs?

    The TSA has no business looking for drugs. Why are they testing its ability to find them?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Seegras (profile), 13 Jul 2017 @ 7:28am

      Re: Drugs?

      And what's "potential weapons" in that context? Just about everything has the potential to be a weapon, so at least when testing I would do it with very obvious weapons. Like machetes and guns, not box cutters and slings.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 12 Jul 2017 @ 2:31pm

    You. Had. One. Job.

    According to Fox 9, the Red Team stopped the audit once it hit the 95% threshold. Even the most sociopathic of us finds it uncomfortable to watch supposedly-trained people fail over and over at the one task they've been assigned.

    On the contrary, if the justification for the agency is for security purposes and to prevent those sorts of things making it through their checkpoints the more pointing out that they are useless at doing so needs to be hammered home.

    When you have one job and you fail that an overwhelming majority of the time that's something that needs to be pointed out as often as possible, and when that one job is the entire justification for an entire agency the fact that they fail so spectacularly brings into question why they're around at all.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    pegr, 12 Jul 2017 @ 6:35pm

    There it is in black and white

    "In most cases, they succeeded in getting the banned items though. 17 out of 18 tries by the undercover federal agents saw explosive materials, fake weapons or drugs pass through TSA screening undetected."


    Why would the TSA be looking for drugs? There are only to remove threats to aviation, not perform warrantless searches on passengers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Mr Big Content, 12 Jul 2017 @ 6:53pm

    Its Only To Deter Casual Terrorism

    We all now teh expert professional Terrorists will always find a way to get there suicide bombs onto the plane. These measures are not meant for them, their intended to catch the more "impromptu" terrorist acts, if you like. Its like anti-piracy measures to discourage teh casual pirates.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Shilling, 12 Jul 2017 @ 8:58pm

    I thought the fact that the tsa is useless when it comes to firearms was established last January when that guy shot people at fort Lauderdale airport after flying from Alaska with his weapon in his luggage. Guess they never learn.

    Atleast it's good for the economy I guess. Pomping all that money in equipment and jobs. Hope it offsets the amount of money from tourists who will not spent it in the country because of the TSA's practices.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      joe_homeowner (profile), 13 Jul 2017 @ 11:16am

      Re:

      Please do not conflate psychological damage from pointless wars with government abuse of its own citizens. Well, maybe they are the same thing, but your example does not support the point you are trying to make.

      It might surprise you to know that it is perfectly legal to fly with a firearm in your checked baggage. Provided you are legally allowed to possess that firearm at both your origin and destination, and you pack properly. You even get to lock your luggage with real lock and TSA cannot open it!

      Perhaps you are mis-remembering, but the tragic event you are referring to involved no TSA screening failure. Esteban Santiago traveled LEGALLY with his firearm in his checked baggage and removed/loaded his firearm only after exiting the secure area.


      I am in agreement that the TSA is a dog and pony show to give the general public a warm fuzzy feeling all while training us to bend over and take it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 13 Jul 2017 @ 6:19am

    "If they did their job competently, there'd be nothing to report."

    If they did their job more competently our lives would be hell in airports. I'm with the reader above, if they didn't exist we'd be much better.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2017 @ 6:34am

    The TSA is designed for failure

    Day in, day out they look for people smuggling guns and bombs on to planes. Those people don't exist in the real world because oddly, the TSA does serve as a deterrent. Nobody can successfully perform the job that the TSA has been assigned.

    The TSA scanned 700 million domestic passengers in 2015. I challenge any organization to perform a task 700 million times while maintaining focus and 100% accuracy. It just won't happen, ever.

    I don't like the TSA anymore than anyone else but I do understand their job is basically impossible.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2017 @ 7:39am

      Re: The TSA is designed for failure

      They might not have the numbers, but when is the last time you heard of a problem on El Al? Of course, they use profiling, which we would never think of doing.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 13 Jul 2017 @ 10:34am

      Re: The TSA is designed for failure

      I challenge any organization to perform a task 700 million times while maintaining focus and 100% accuracy. It just won't happen, ever.

      True, but if someone could do it with 10% accuracy that would be twice as good as the TSA. Nobody is complaining that their performance is not 100%, but rather that it is very close to 0%.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Jul 2017 @ 12:13pm

    Terrorists are stupid. Blow up a plane and kill 300 people. Blow up a New Jersey Transit train and you kill 1,200. Both are transportation. Hell, walk into any school and just start shooting, if some deranged 15 year old can do it, I would imagine a terrorist could as well.

    The only thing more stupid than terrorists has been our response to terrorism. Over 100 people were shot over the 4th of July weekend. Did we send in TSA? Did we send in the FBI? Did we send our troops to Chicago? (Although unless they bring in tanks, they may be outgunned)

    Here is a fact, if someone wants to kill people, they will kill people, there is nothing that can change that fact.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Get off my cyber-lawn! (profile), 13 Jul 2017 @ 2:15pm

    STUDY PROBABILITY THEORY

    I could randomly pick boxes and have a better detection rate than that. They must be working pretty damn hard at screwing up to hit that low a percentage!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John85851 (profile), 17 Jul 2017 @ 11:37am

    What if the study measured how many were caught

    So the study was ended when the TSA hit a 94.4% failure rate (17 out of 18)?
    What would happen if the study only ended a certain number of items were caught? If the ratio is the same and the study ended when 20 items were caught, then we're talking about 360 contraband items getting through for every 20 items caught.

    Never mind- I suppose it's better to say "17 in 18 items were missed" instead of "20 in 360 items were caught".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jul 2017 @ 2:30pm

    "It's not a bug, it's a feature."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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