Tuesday, June 2, 2015

What Are We Paying For Again...?

From ABC News:

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.

Wow. So we get lined up, barked at, irradiated and/or groped, little tin dictators in spiffy blue shirts with official looking epaulettes and shiny fake badges[1] treat us like cattle or prisoners, and... for what again?

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.

Gee, I'm so glad we have TSA making us feel so much safer than we were before 9/11. Oh, wait....

Security experts have said before that all the security rules put into place at the airport at the security checkpoints can be defeated without too much trouble, and I've discussed that here before. It's common knowledge; I'm sure all the terrorists know.

Or maybe this is a one-time thing?

This is not the first time the TSA has had trouble spotting Red Team agents. A similar episode played out in 2013, when an undercover investigator with a fake bomb hidden on his body passed through a metal detector, went through a pat-down at New Jersey's Newark Liberty Airport, and was never caught.


[T]he review determined that despite spending $540 million for checked baggage screening equipment and another $11 million for training since a previous review in 2009, the TSA failed to make any noticeable improvements in that time.

And according to a USA Today story in 2007, about failure rate of screener tests:

Howe said the increased difficulty explains why screeners at Los Angeles and Chicago O'Hare airports failed to find more than 60% of fake explosives that TSA agents tried to get through checkpoints last year.

The failure rates — about 75% at Los Angeles and 60% at O'Hare — are higher than some tests of screeners a few years ago and equivalent to other previous tests.

So I guess that's a "nope" on the one-time failure thing.

And of course, part of the problem is that so much of the effort is focused at airports. It's as if Homeland Security thinks terrorists have some kind of a compulsion to attack airports and airplanes. News flash: terrorists want to cause terror. They'll do that anywhere they think will be effective. Other places will do just as well, places like sports stadiums, shopping malls, theme parks and other tourist attractions -- anywhere large groups of people gather. There's no way to guard every possible target against terrorist activity without turning the US into the ultimate police state. Money wasted on TSA would be much better spent on intelligence, stopping terrorists before they ever get near their targets.

David Burge, on Twitter, has it right IMO:


At $8 billion per year, the TSA is the most expensive theatrical production in history.

Yeah, that's just about right. [sigh]

Thanks to Bruce Schneier for posting about this.

[1] Yes, fake badges. The TSA screener uniforms and badges are designed to make travellers assume that the screeners are law enforcement officers, for purposes of intimidation and compliance. They are not law enforcement, and have no arrest powers. If a TSA screener thinks you should be arrested, they have to call a real cop like everyone else.



Suzan Harden said...

The TSA Show is one of the reasons we stopped flying at all.

There's the female TSA agent who was way to fascinated by my underwire bra. My offer to give her my single lesbian sister's phone number finally got her to back off.

There's the TSA a*****e who screamed at my terrified three-year-old when I was trying to get him to go through the scanner by himself.

I could keep going, but frankly, I trust my fellow passengers to thwart a terrorist attack than I do Homeland Security.

Angie said...

Suzan -- yeah, there are some first class assholes in those uniforms. When we lived in Long Beach, LAX was full of them; very bad airport to fly out of. Portland has its share too, which feels kind of weird for a small airport, but there you go.

Luckily for us, Seattle has a great crew. I've flown out of there like twenty times and have never run into a little tin Nazi in a TSA uniform. Whoever's training those folks is doing it right. Wish they could clone him/her and share the wealth.

Which wouldn't make me criticize TSA any less, but my major beef is with the idiots in DC who make policy, not the footsoldiers in the trenches, so long as they behave civilly and treat travellers like human beings worthy of respect unless and until they clearly cause trouble. Unfortunate that so many can't manage that minimal level of professionalism.


Charles Gramlich said...

So ridiculous. We live in the age of the ridiculous

Angie said...

Charles -- we absolutely do. I just wish these ridiculous people weren't all sucking at the public tit. :/