Report shows TSA missed 95% of banned items during test

Back in November I wrote a wish list for the TSA.  At the time, TSA Administrator Chief John Pistole was knifestepping down (the longest serving administrator of the agency) and I wanted to address things I would like to see with the new administrator.  Well, I guess I should have included one more request on my wish list: Keeping us safe!

A report was just released that showed banned items, which include weapons and even explosives, made it through security 95% (67 out of 70) of the time during a test across the nation at US airports.  After this report came out Acting Administrator Melvin Carraway was reassigned.  I should point out that Carraway was not the permanent replacement for Pistole, but instead was in place while the politics of receiving and approving a nominee took place

There’s a lot of blame going around for this report.  Is this the TSA screeners’ fault, or the fault of the machines doing the screening?  Is it because no permanent Administrator is in place, but should have been?  If I had to guess I would say it’s a combination of all of the above, and that everyone involved needs to take responsibility for this report.

Let’s be real, as presented this is all pretty terrifying.  What’s the point of going through all of this screening, not to mention spending billions of tax payer dollars, if it’s going to fail us 95% of the time?  It baffles me that we could be doing this badly at detecting banned items almost fifteen years after 9-11.  When I wrote my TSA wish list I said I was relatively satisfied, and I feel like the TSA is unnecessarily labeled as the bad guy at times. Now, not so much.

Readers, what do you think? Does it surprise you that so many banned items slipped through screening? Who do you think should get the blame?

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  1. What’s really terrifying is the complete hysteria being promulgated by bloggers and other media. These tests were done by TSA red teams with detailed knowledge of screening vulnerabilities. One should EXPECT a high success rate – otherwise they’re not testing rigorously enough.

    It absolutely does NOT mean that screeners are “going to fail us 95% of the time”. It’s LUDICROUS, not to mention irresponsible, to suggest that the thousands of prohibited items seized every month are only 5% of what is making its way onto aircraft.

    I HATE being forced to be a TSA apologist, because I thoroughly believe that most of the enhanced security put in place is theater, and I strongly suspect that many of the failures were in fact shockingly elementary.. But muzzy-headed alarmist articles don’t help the discussion or analysis.

  2. I agree with above. Also what are we the public thinking, perhaps it shows the vulnerability of having human beings screen through 1000s of pieces our luggage looking for something that might be a weapon in all the rubble in our luggage. In other countries (with a high amount of terrorism) they rely on x-ray machines only or a physical search of the luggage. We were safest when after 9/11 we carried on one tiny bag and checked EVERYTHING else, that had been scanned, sniffed and maybe opened. Or were we safest when we understood the risks of living?

  3. I partially agree with JEM and Sheila. While failures are expected during tests, a 95% failure rate is beyond excessive, even in first time and internal tests. There clearly are problems in the TSA, and have been for a very long time.
    That’s the point – their whole approach to security doesn’t work and needs a revamp. They need to focus on screening people Vs items. Taking away peoples carry on bags does nothing from a systems perspective. It only moves the problem to the cargo hold from the passenger cabin. Do you really think someone can’t put a bomb in the hold with a radio connection? Do you really think that a 3″ long collapsible pen knife is a true threat to the FA’s? There’s no systems level thinking with security, and that is the entire problem!
    TSA needs an entire paradigm shift in security measures before they will ever become effective.

  4. i find it very easy to believe the TSA has a 95% failure rate. I can tell you one area where security worldwide is failing 100% of the time and that is with liquids.

    I’ve read frequent fliers saying they don’t even bother taking a bag of liquids out and have never, ever been made to take them out of hand luggage. Well, after being made to dispose of some very expensive liquids bc my bag was not the size Gatwick approved, I stopped bothering about liquids myself.

    I put a few things in the regulation Baggie, but whatever doesn’t fit is scattered amongst my belongings in the two pieces I carry on, a large one in the overhead bin and a smaller one at my feet. I’ve been traveling around Europe for 3 months now and never had a problem with the things in my bag.

    Before I left the states, I forgot to take out my bag of liquids in both New Orleans and Las Vegas, nobody mentioned them. So apparently the people behind the X-ray machines are not looking for liquids, which I have no problem with. I would prefer them to be concentrating on possible weaponry. But apparently they aren’t doing such a hot job there either.

    Still, I think there would have been more problems, if they were missing 95% of the important stuff. So maybe they are just concentrating on the most dangerous stuff. Which, imo, is the way it should be. So I have no problem with that either. If they are catching guns, then I don’t care if they skip my tweezers.

  5. I have been travelling around the States and Europe for almost two years now. I have very rarely ever been asked about liquids in my hand luggage. The only places I have actually been told to remove my liquids and had my luggage searched was in Chile and Dublin, Ireland. Every where else never asked me to remove the liquids. I fly out of Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson on a regular basis. This is the busiest airport in the world. The lack of security there is appalling. I have gone through security with more than my allotted liquids many times and I have never been stopped.

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