Undercover operation reveals gaps in TSA screenings

Violet Powell
November 10, 2017

Undercover officers got through TSA checkpoints with mock knives, guns, and explosives more than 70 percent of the time, Homeland Security investigators told the House Homeland Security Committee Wednesday, CBS News reported. But committee chair Rep. Michael McCaul called the findings "disturbing" at a hearing after the briefing.

Undercover operatives from the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General (OIG) were able to smuggle contraband through USA airports at a high rate, according to a new report shared with a Congressional committee.

While the exact number has yet to be publicly released, following a congressional hearing on the classified report, ABC News reports that an unnamed source said that an 80 percent failure rate was "in the ballpark".

TSA pre-check travelers are exempt from the new screenings and can leave devices in their bags when traveling through the designated pre-check line, according to the TSA.

"This agency that you run is broken badly and it needs your attention", Rep. Mike Rogers told TSA Administrator during the briefing.

"We take the OIG's findings very seriously and are implementing measures that will improve screening effectiveness at checkpoints", said TSA Administrator David Pekoske in a statement.

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The failure rate is actually an improvement from a similar undercover operation undertaken by the DHS in 2015, when operatives found the TSA had a failure rate of 95 percent. Those inspections reportedly included taking in weapons and explosive materials through screening checkpoints.

Undercover tests conducted by the Department of Homeland Security revealed "vulnerabilities" at security checkpoints across United States airports.

The results of the tests were leaked following a House Committee meeting on Homeland Security Wednesday.

The technology, which has already been tested in TSA checkpoints in at least two airports, according to ABC News, includes 3D imaging for baggage, allowing more effective ways to spot threatening items.

"We have the technology and resources to do it", Bill Keating (D-MA) said, "but we're not doing it because ... we're paying for a wall" on the US-Mexico border.

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