Our nation and our nation’s airports are under heightened alert in light of coordinated recent terrorist attacks and exposed terror plots. Yet, one of the very places that we expect federal agents to be vigilant, we find that they are “sleeping on the job” so to speak.
The Transportation Security Agency (TSA), which is charged with ensuring our security in the air following the 9/11 attacks of over fourteen years ago, has once again demonstrated that they are failing to catch hidden weapons which could be used to inflict violence in the air.
Not only is this unsettling, but it’s maddening given that earlier this year, it was revealed that the TSA failed 67 out of 70 times to identify hidden explosives and weapons when the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) conducted undercover investigations.
Nearly, nine months after news of those investigations broke, we’re leaning that the TSA still can’t seem to hit its critical core mission.
The TODAY show’s national investigative correspondent Jeff Rossen and his team recently conducted their own undercover investigation at several airports across the country to see how the TSA was performing. It turns out that in three out of four cases, they successfully smuggled pocket knives and other weapons past TSA inspection.
This news comes at a critical moment when major cities such as Washington, D.C., face specific terrorist threats.
TODAY News reports:
At Los Angeles International Airport, Rossen put a Swiss Army knife in his bag and was stopped by inspectors, who confiscated the knife.
However, at Atlanta International Airport, a Rossen Reports producer was able to get through TSA inspection with a Swiss Army knife in her wallet. Also in Atlanta, another member of the Rossen team got through security with a sharp scissors whose blade was longer than 4 inches.
And at Newark Liberty International Airport, a Rossen producer got onto his flight with a box cutter — the same weapon used by hijackers in the 9/11 attacks.
Reviewing the results, aviation security expert Anthony Roman called them "a complete and utter failure of the system."
These are items we know have been smuggled through major international hubs, we have to wonder how many other banned and potentially dangerous items have also slipped through that we don’t know about?
The TSA pretty much shrugged its shoulders at this investigation based on their response, but haven’t said how their implemented changes can prevent this from reoccurring:
In a statement to NBC News, TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger said: "It is unacceptable for any prohibited item to pass through security undetected. Both the DHS Office of the Inspector General and TSA frequently conduct testing and evaluations of our screening measures so that we can continuously improve our security screening procedures. As a result of this input, TSA has been implementing systematic changes in how we screen passengers and their baggage in order to better deter, detect, and disrupt any potential threat of terrorism."
I feel no more confident in TSA as a result of their described improved security screening.
We often report on the invasive ways that the TSA targets passengers, but the failures of the TSA to find hidden weapons or track persons who should be prohibited from flying can have lethal consequences. TSA agents have harassed and even allegedly assaulted passengers on several occasions. None of these episodes is acceptable, and they are more offensive in light of the agency's lapses in detecting weapons.
When can we expect better from the $7-billion agency and the 47,000 workers it employs? They are adapt at confiscating my large hand lotion bottle. However, that isn’t much solace when we learn that the passenger beside could have successfully brought his box cutter onto our flight. As we discussed on the anniversary of 9/11 it may be time to reassess our relationship with the TSA and explore options that rely more on the free market.