The TSA Has A 95 Percent Failure Rate For Finding Bombs And Weapons

Illustration for article titled The TSA Has A 95 Percent Failure Rate For Finding Bombs And Weapons

BREAKING NEWS: The Transportation Security Administration isn’t good for anything except laughing at your flabby naked body and molesting disabled children. If you want to know what a wasteful joke of security theater the administration really is, look no further than a new report that shows how often they failed to find bombs and weapons undercover agents tried to smuggle onto planes.

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ABC News reports an internal TSA investigation conducted at dozens of the country’s busiest airports revealed agents managed to sneak banned weapons and mock bombs past security in 95 percent of trials conducted. NINETY-FIVE PERCENT!

The agents were part of a group called “Red Team,” trained to be really-smart pretend “super terrorists” who, if they were real, would be competent enough to blow up a plane if they wanted to. Unlike, say, the TSA, which is only competent at being fucking terrible all of the time.

According to officials briefed on the results of a recent Homeland Security Inspector General’s report, TSA agents failed 67 out of 70 tests, with Red Team members repeatedly able to get potential weapons through checkpoints.

In one test an undercover agent was stopped after setting off an alarm at a magnetometer, but TSA screeners failed to detect a fake explosive device that was taped to his back during a follow-on pat down.

A day after this report went public, the Department of Homeland Security — which oversees the $7.4 billion TSA — reassigned the agency’s acting director Melvin Carraway. DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson also directed the TSA to implement a number of reforms following this report, so we’re all good now and everything is fine.

A former TSA administrator, speaking to NBC News:

Meanwhile, terrorism experts stress that the threat levels remain high.

“There’s a continuing drumbeat of interests by terrorist groups, whether al-Qaeda or al-Qaeda affiliates, to try to bring down a Western — especially a U.S.-bound — aircraft,” Pistole said.

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Bend over and stay afraid, America! The TSA is here to save you, and touch your balls.


Contact the author at patrick@jalopnik.com.

DISCUSSION

otto-maddox
OttoMaddox

I have been a TSA officer for almost 8 years. I can think of a number of reasons for this failure rate.

First, the job is NOT easy. You only become proficient through experience, and the high turnover guarantees that officers are less experienced than they should be.

So why is there such a high turnover? The reasons are structural. First, officers are usually hired on a part time basis, with a promise of full time employment later. But it could take a long time, even years, for a full time position to open up. One cannot make a living working 25 hours a week. Couple that with inconvenient shift times (shifts are seniority bid), and you have a recipe for a young immature workforce that leaves for better opportunities after a year or two. With an improving job market this is becoming more of a problem.

Second, TSA is truly a miserable dysfunctional and hostile place to work, with harassing, bullying, firings for trivial reasons such as workplace injuries and pregnancy, requesting FMLA, and gross misconduct by management. For example, at my airport, managers were changing PASS scores, which are used to award performance bonuses, after they and their supervisors signed off on them. After officers discovered this and complained their scores were restored, but the managers responsible are still working there. Why would they do that? Well, THEIR performance bonuses are based on how much money they saved the company. Yes, TSA is run like a company, and not like any other government agency. The leadership is truly terrible. This and the short staffing resulting from the high turnover rates has resulted in a cynical and demoralized workforce finding their jobs increasingly intolerable.

That brings me to a second reason. Management is pressuring supervisors, and supervisors are pressuring officers, to go faster and faster. TSA is caving to demands by stakeholders (airlines and airport authorities) to reduce wait times at the expense of security. Two weeks ago at my airport management suspended AIT body entirely and pushed everyone through the old metal detectors when lines got too long. When officers expressed shock and disbelief at this, we were told that the decision was made by upper management and that we were to not worry about it.

This demand for speed, and the short staffing resulting from the high turnover, has resulted in harried officers doing cursory patdowns at the AIT body scanners. I, as a mature and experienced officer, feel comfortable ignoring the supervisors’ freakouts over the long lines and doing a proper, thorough patdown. Younger, less experienced officers may not.

And things are going to get worse. TSA is greatly expanding its Managed Inclusion program whereby more passengers are randomly admitted to the Pre Check lines. In fact, soon most lines at the checkpoint will be expedited screening.

I am convinced that this state of affairs is intentional. Remember that TSA was created during the Bush administration, and the last thing they wanted to do was create another 50,000 permanent government workers. I think that TSA was structured to be privatized, and handed over to whatever politically connected company is first in line. Rep. John Mica (R-Fla), TSA’s most outspoken critic in Congress, represents the company that performs privatized screening operations at some airports. http://flyingwithfish.boardingarea.com/2014/01/24/why…

So for TSA to keep looking bad in the media furthers this agenda by creating a demand by the public and in Congress to privatize the whole mess.

The real solution is to treat TSA officers as skilled professionals, with pay and benefits, and job security and level of respect commensurate with the importance of the job. This would require a restructuring of the agency away from the business model and towards a Customs or law enforcement model.

I don’t see that happening.