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GAO tests find that carry-on luggage can pose risks

       The Government Accountability Office on Thursday released results of a 2006 test in which its personnel passed through a number of airport screening checkpoints undetected while carrying components of incendiary explosive devices.

      The GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, said its personnel carried the components in their carry-on luggage. The specific ingredients were classified secret by the U.S. Transportation Security Agency, which operates airport checkpoints.

         GAO obtained the components at retail stores for about $150. Tests done by GAO, in cooperation with a national laboratory and law enforcement agencies, showed that a terrorist using these components could cause severe damage to an airliner and endanger passengers.

         A GAO official told the House Oversight Committee that his agency was able to circumvent TSA's screening procedures by using carry-on luggage. The airports tested were not named.

        A summary of the report can be found at:

       http://www.gao.gov/docsearch/abstract.php?rptno=GAO-08-48T

        TSA administrator Kip Hawley downplayed the risks posed by homemade incendiary devices. He said his agency is dedicated to blocking explosives big enough to down an airliner.

         Should the TSA now order that all carry-on bags be thoroughly searched?

--Douglas Turner

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