The TSA Is Still Pretty Terrible at Detecting Threats

Airport security reportedly failed around 80 percent of its recent security tests, conducted by undercover agents.
Drew Schwartz
Brooklyn, US
November 9, 2017, 5:45pm
Photo by George Frey/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Back in 2015, the Department of Homeland Security sent a horde of undercover agents through airport checkpoints with guns and fake bombs to test how well TSA agents could detect them. The agency tasked with keeping us safe in the skies failed to sniff out the threats 95 percent of the time, alarming lawmakers and sending the TSA into a frenzy to shape up.

But two years later, it looks like the TSA is still terrifyingly bad at its job. In a recent undercover test of airport checkpoints, security failed to detect threats more than half of the time, ABC News reports. Specifically, a source familiar with the report told ABC the agency's failure rate was "in the ballpark" of 80 percent.


Although the details of the test are still classified, the DHS said in a statement that its inspectors "identified vulnerabilities with TSA's screener performance, screening equipment, and associated procedures." In a public hearing Thursday, House representatives called the TSA's performance "disturbing," and said the agency was "broken badly."

To the TSA's credit, the undercover inspectors, known as the "Red Team," are aware of exactly how the agency operates and can identify weak spots in the system that, according to former TSA administrator John Pistole, "not even the best terrorists would be able to do." There are some things the TSA is apparently still pretty good at, though, like detecting hidden swords in old folks' canes, determining which sea creatures are OK to store in your carry-on, and running a pretty famous Instagram account.

For his part, TSA head David Pekoske said the agency takes the findings "very seriously" and is "implementing measures that will improve screening effectiveness at checkpoints."

"We are focused on staying ahead of a dynamic threat to aviation with continued investment in the workforce, enhanced procedures, and new technologies," Pekoske said.

Let's just hope the TSA gets ahead of that dynamic threat soon. Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away, and it's supposed to be an even busier time for air travel than last year's record-breaking nightmare.

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