A new GAO audit of the Transportation Security Administration finds it “doesn’t know what it doesn’t know,” as Watchdog.org’s Eric Boehm put it. According to Boehm, the audit:

…reveals the TSA doesn’t know how often someone on the “no fly list” was allowed to fly after slipping through security undetected. But on 16 occasions between 2010 and 2013, the advisory board that oversees the TSA’s security system held meetings to discuss “system matching errors,” in which lists of passengers were incorrectly screened against the “no-fly list” or other lists maintained by the TSA’s Secure Flight program.

But when the GAO asked the TSA for more specific information about those matching errors and what the TSA was doing to correct them, the answer wasn’t forthcoming.

First, it took the TSA six months to produce a list. Then, the GAO determined the list was incomplete.

…not knowing who is slipping through the screening process is only the latest in a disturbing trend of problems the TSA has had with its screening process.

In a May 2009 report on the Secure Flight program, the GAO found passengers who should be targeted for extra scrutiny from the TSA could easily avoid the enhanced screening process by simply giving a fake name when they bought tickets.

A follow-up report in 2012 found “several incidents” in which passengers used fraudulent documentation to board a flight.

In an attempt at cleanup, the TSA spent $2.6 million on 1,400 new boarding pass scanners — one for every access point at America’s commercial airports. All were deployed by March.

Airline travel has become increasingly grueling over the past several years in large part due to the increased poking, prodding, patting down, and intrusive searches at the airport. All this is supposed to be for the sake of safety, but mounting evidence shows that bureaucratic monopolies and effectiveness just don’t mix.

Airports in other countries are in charge of their own security, and with a variety of providers increased competition would inspire innovative practices that would help make travelers safer and more secure when they fly.