Ever since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, America’s airports have been on alert and passengers have been subjected to an unwanted but generally accepted multilayered screening process.
Even the grumpiest traveler should be willing to endure what really amounts to a minor inconvenience if it means keeping the skies and this country safe.
Central to this tacit agreement between the screener and screened is the notion that each and every person and item is being thoroughly and painstakingly processed.
Except, unbelievably, that is apparently not even close to being the case.
A leaked report from the inspector general revealed widespread and dangerous flaws in security at the Transportation Security Administration and some of the nation’s busiest airports.
According to the report, undercover investigators were able to smuggle mock explosives or banned weapons through checkpoints in 95 percent of trial runs. Agents of Homeland Security’s secret Red Teams posed as passengers, except they had a mission of attempting to beat the system. And they won, most of the time.
TSA agents failed 67 of 70 tests. While one undercover agent was stopped after setting off an alarm at a magnetometer, the screeners somehow missed the fake explosive device that was taped to his back during what could only have been a cursory follow-on pat down.
The nation’s airlines remain tempting targets for terrorists, which is why it is imperative for the TSA to have in place effective screening measures. The inspector general’s shocking report suggests that airline safety is more a matter of luck than it is the result of demanding procedures.
Millions of dollars have been spent - $540 million, according to ABC News – for equipment to screen checked baggage and another $11 million for training since an earlier review in 2009 found lapses in security, and yet undercover agents can still sneak fake explosives past screeners.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, whose department oversees the TSA, reacted appropriately to the findings by reassigning the acting director and ordering the agency to revise its security procedures to close the vulnerabilities exposed by the inspector general.
He’s giving the agency another chance to do its job. Terrorists won’t offer the TSA the chance for a retest.