A traveler is patted down by a TSA agent as they go through security at the Salt Lake City International Airport in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo)
Despite creating a world where you have to take off your shoes, empty every drop out of a water bottle, dispose of toenail scissors, and expose yourself to a full-body scanner (or submit to a physical pat-down) every time you want to get on an airplane, the Transportation Safety Administration failed to find a full 95 percent of fake weapons which passed through airport security checkpoints during covert tests performed recently by the Department of Homeland Security.
As ABC News, which broke the story on Monday, reports:
An internal investigation of the Transportation Security Administration revealed security failures at dozens of the nation’s busiest airports, where undercover investigators were able to smuggle mock explosives or banned weapons through checkpoints in 95 percent of trials, ABC News has learned.
The series of tests were conducted by Homeland Security Red Teams who pose as passengers, setting out to beat the system.
According to officials briefed on the results of a recent Homeland Security Inspector General’s report, TSA agents failed 67 out of 70 tests, 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.
As a result of the high failure rate, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson has reassigned the TSA chief to a new role at the agency and ordered a full review of security procedures and ordered immediate improvements.
Strikingly, as ABC noted, the review by DHS determined that “despite spending $540 million for checked baggage screening equipment and another $11 million for training since a previous review in 2009, the TSA failed to make any noticeable improvements in that time.”
Created after the attacks of 9/11, DHS has spearheaded the vast security apparatus that has now become everyday life for anyone who travels by air in the United States. The TSA, of course, is the army of blue-shirted guards who administer the checkpoints. For nearly fifteen years since 2001, critics of the TSA and civil liberties advocates have contended that the unchecked rise of airport security has done much to invade the privacy of travellers while also giving rise to a lucrative, and largely unnecessary, industry that has put billions of federal dollars into the pockets of private companies who benefit from the security-industrial complex.
Just this weekend, journalist Lee Fang reported how a former lobbyist for one of the companies that builds full-body scanners, and aggressively Congress to pass laws making them mandatory at U.S. airports, was hired as a staffer for one of the key congressional committees responsible for the oversight and funding of the TSA.
According to Fang:
Rapiscan Systems lobbied aggressively to win a major contract with the Transportation Security Administration to provide X-ray body scanners at airports, only to lose the contract in 2013 after the company failed to deliver software to protect the privacy of passengers.
Rapiscan now has a friend on the inside.
Earlier this month, Rapiscan lobbyist Christopher Romig took a job with the House Appropriations Committee’s Homeland Security Subcommittee, which oversees the TSA budget.
The entryways to U.S. airports are heavily (if poorly) monitored, it seems, while the ones entering Congress continue to be the revolving kind.