The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) isn't exactly known for hiring the most competent employees, which has often led to speculation that the agency does nothing but perform security theater, in an effort to make America's airports look safer than they actually are.
New reports confirm this suspicion as a leaked TSA internal investigation revealed security failures at nearly all 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.
The tests were conducted by Homeland Security teams who posed as passengers setting out to beat the system.
According to a recent Homeland Security Inspector General’s report, TSA agents failed 67 out of 70 tests, with undercover agents repeatedly able to get weapons through checkpoints.
In one test an undercover agent was even stopped after setting off a metal detector, yet TSA screeners failed to detect a fake explosives taped to his back during a follow-up pat down.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, who must be red-faced over the shocking revelations, was apparently so frustrated by the findings he sought a detailed briefing on them last week at TSA headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.
“Upon learning the initial findings of the Office of Inspector General's report, Secretary Johnson immediately directed TSA to implement a series of actions, several of which are now in place, to address the issues raised in the report,” the DHS said in a written statement.
Homeland security officials insist that security at the nation’s airports is strong, yet they admitted just last week that thousands of security badges have gone missing this year alone. Such badges allow access to nearly all sensitive areas inside an airport, including access to aircraft.
The latest findings by the DHS inspector general’s office after it recently concluded a series of undercover tests targeting checked baggage screening.
That review found numerous “vulnerabilities”, attributing them to human error and technological failures.
The review determined that despite spending $540 million for checked baggage screening equipment and another $11 million for training since 2009, the TSA made no noticeable improvements in that time.
The findings seem to support what we've always known - enhanced security checks are just time-wasting theater and do not stop persistent attackers from perpetrating terrorist acts.