Surprise: TSA Hasn't Improved Since Failing 95 Percent of Security Tests

Katie Pavlich
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Posted: Nov 04, 2015 8:25 AM
Surprise: TSA Hasn't Improved Since Failing 95 Percent of Security Tests

Earlier this year, TSA failed undercover security tests at airports across the country at a rate of 95 percent. As a reminder

An internal investigation of the Transportation Security Administration revealed security failures at dozens of the nation’s busiest airports, where undercover investigators were able to smuggle mock explosives or banned weapons through checkpoints in 95 percent of trials, ABC News has learned.

The series of tests were conducted by Homeland Security Red Teams who pose as passengers, setting out to beat the system.

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.

It should be noted that after this failure, President Obama expressed full confidence in the agency.

"The President does believe the American people should feel confident in traveling airports all across the country because there are security measures in place to protect the traveling public," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said at the time. "The President does continue to have confidence that the officers of the TSA do very important work that continues to protect the American people and continue to protect the American aviation system."

Five months later, things at TSA haven't improved, weapons are being smuggled onto planes, many layers of security are non-existent and morale among employees is in the toilet.

According to Homeland Security Inspector General John Roth, a second round of testing in September 2015 shows TSA is still missing major security breaches. 

"In September 2015, we completed and distributed our report on our most recent round of covert testing. The results are classified at the Secret level, and the Department and this Committee have been provided a copy of our classified report. TSA justifiably classifies at the Secret level the validated test results; any analysis, trends, or comparison of the results of our testing; and specific vulnerabilities uncovered during testing. Additionally, TSA considers other information protected from disclosure as Sensitive Security Information. While I cannot talk about the specifics in this setting, I am able to say that we conducted the audit with sufficient rigor to satisfy the standards contained within the Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards, that the tests were conducted by auditors within our Office of Audits without any special knowledge or training, and that the test results were disappointing and troubling," Roth said during testimony in front of the House Oversight Committee Tuesday. "We ran multiple tests at eight different airports of different sizes, including large category X airports across the country, and tested airports using private screeners as part of the Screening Partnership Program. The results were consistent across every airport. Our testing was designed to test checkpoint operations in real world conditions. It was not designed to test specific, discrete segments of checkpoint operations, but rather the system as a whole. The failures included failures in the technology, failures in TSA procedures, and human error. We found layers of security simply missing. It would be misleading to minimize the rigor of our testing, or to imply that our testing was not an accurate reflection of the effectiveness of the totality of aviation security."

TSA receives $8 billion in federal dollars each year. In April, TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger was appointed by President Obama to take over the agency. He was confirmed in July.