Rich Thomaselli | November 09, 2015 1:30 PM ET
With TSA’s Issues, Security Needs To Be More Drastic
We’d all like to think that security in the United States, particularly at airports, is as sharp and as stringent – if not more so – than any other place in the world. Surely there was the sentiment, a lot of it, that “that wouldn’t happen here,” after it was reported that U.S. intelligence officials believe the crash of Russia’s Metrojet Flight 9268 in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula was the work of a terror group planting a bomb on the plane.
That wouldn’t happen here, they say. The airport in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh on the Red Sea is known for lax security, they say.
As much as it pains to admit, it can happen here – and will, if drastic measures aren’t taken, particularly with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Because when it comes to ISIS and other terror groups, the airline industry is at Defcon 2 on the crisis scale.
It’s time to start considering the privatization of the TSA.
The TSA was created in the aftermath of the devastating Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. The government agency, ostensibly, was formed to enhance security at airports and form a deeper layer of protection against further terrorism.
Fourteen years later, that is not happening.
In June, an undercover sting by the Department of Homeland Security revealed that in 70 different instances at seven major airports, TSA agents failed to find fake explosives and weapons – including one strapped to the back of one of the undercover investigators – a whopping 67 times.
If that didn’t unnerve you at the time, this will – a federal watchdog group decided to follow up on that undercover investigation by doing the same thing at eight airports in September.
What they found was more than troubling. It was frightening.
In hearings on Tuesday before the House Oversight Committee, Homeland Security Inspector General John Roth testified that nothing has changed since earlier this year. The 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. … 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.
"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."
We. Found. Layers. Of. Security. Simply. Missing.
The DHS, which oversees the TSA, has asked the agency for a detailed plan on how it will correct the deficiencies in the department.
It’s too late for that.
Far too late.
Airlines For America, the lobby group that represents virtually all U.S. airlines, wants air traffic control to be separated from the FAA and put into a private organization. Maybe it’s time to start thinking about privatizing the TSA and our airline and airport security.
As one think tank, the Cato Institute, noted, “the problem is not just operational inefficiency. The TSA doesn’t think strategically, or at least, it does not do so effectively. The agency has been criticized for failing to follow “robust risk assessment methodology” and undertaking “little or no evaluation of” program performance.
Quite often, we think of terrorists as rag-tag bands of militants instead of how we truly should view them – savvy, well-trained, well-funded groups with malice in their hearts toward America, people who would momentarily spare your life just to watch the pain and anguish you would go through while they torture and kill a loved one.
That sound too harsh?
It’s how we have start thinking in this country instead of confiscating a water bottle or making you take your belt off.
We are in crisis mode with airport security. The time for review and plans of action have passed.
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