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Saturday, February 06, 2016

Security paper tigers (2)

Time to close the TSA
When the Transportation Security Administration dispatched undercover investigators last spring to test the effectiveness of airport checkpoints, the results were deplorable. Agents posing as passengers were able to smuggle weapons and mock explosives through 67 out of 70 TSA checkpoints — a failure rate of 95 percent. Following that debacle, the TSA’s acting administrator was given the boot, and the Department of Homeland Security announced that it had “immediately directed TSA to implement a series of actions, several of which are now in place, to address the issues raised in the report.”

That was in June. In July, a new TSA chief pledged to lawmakers that within 60 days “we will have trained the failure out of the front line” of airport screening personnel. So how do things stand four months later? The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a hearing on that question last week, with Homeland Security Inspector General John Roth as the key witness. Roth reported the final results of the the undercover testing at US airports, and he didn’t beat about the bush. “The test results were disappointing and troubling,” he said. “The results were consistent across every airport. . . . The failures included failures in the technology, failures in TSA procedures, and human error. We found layers of security simply missing.’’ (...)

Fourteen years after the creation of the TSA, there is still no indication that the agency has ever caught a terrorist, or foiled a 9/11-type plot in the offing. Conversely, there are reams of reports documenting the inability of TSA screeners to spot hidden guns, knives, bomb components, and other dangerous contraband as they pass through airport checkpoints. It’s doubtful that anyone is still capable of being surprised by a fresh confirmation of the TSA’s incompetence — even if members of Congress do sometimes feign alarm for the sake of the folks back home.
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