The TSA is the gift that keeps on giving. Just as summer travel season kicks into high gear, we learn about the second big black eye for the agency — and another ‘oh %&*#!’ — for travelers — in less than a week.
I’m not sure which is worse, the fact that the TSA had a 95 percent failure rate in detecting contraband weapons snuck through in tests of airport screeners or the latest news that the TSA actually hired 73 workers on the terror watch list.
As reported last week by ABC News:
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.
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.
And now, in The Guardian:
The Transportation Safety Administration failed to identify 73 people on terrorism-related watch lists who were hired in the aviation industry, the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security has revealed.
In a document published following an audit by the DHS, which oversees the TSA, the agency was found to have missed 73 people with terrorism-related category codes being employed by “major airlines, airport vendors, and other employers”.
Each incident comes on the heels of the agency patting itself on the back — in the first case, for the “good job it was doing in sniffing out guns and other weapons,” and most recently, claiming its process to vet aviation workers for potential links to terrorism is “generally effective.”
But wait, it gets worse.
The Guardian explains WHY these 73 individuals slipped through the cracks to stand watch at our nation’s security checkpoints:
TSA did not identify these individuals through its vetting operations because it is not authorized to receive all terrorism-related categories under current interagency watch-listing policy,” the DHS document stated, adding that the agency had “acknowledged that these individuals were cleared for access to secure airport areas despite representing a potential transportation security threat”.
In other words, the TSA isn’t allowed to get every bit of information available about applicants, unless the applicants report it themselves. It’s up to the applicant to report information that could likely disqualify them from TSA employment. Yeaaahh. Got it. Turns out, even if information comes in after someone’s hired on at the TSA, the TSA doesn’t always get that info.
All of this will be cold comfort to travelers lining up through security for their summer vacations.
The silver lining – or the “gift” if you choose to see it that way – is this provides yet another stunning example of how increased government spending does NOT equal a better job done or necessarily help keep us safer. Despite almost $100 billion spent since 2011, the TSA continues to bring us lapse after lapse. Indeed, it appears that some of these gaps are a result of the very bloated bureaucracy that was supposed to keep us safer.