Bomb parts easily slip past airports’ security
Despite the multibillion-dollar ramp-up in aviation security since Sept. 11, 2001, congressional investigators were able to sneak homemade bomb components past federal screeners at all 21 airports they targeted in a recent covert exercise.
The General Accountability Office conducted the tests between October and January to determine the vulnerability posed by a would-be suicide bomber carrying easily purchased materials that could be assembled into a bomb once past security.
The GAO findings, first reported by NBC News, are classified, and the airports’ identities were not disclosed.
The head of the Transportation Security Administration, which oversees nearly 43,000 screeners at 429 commercial airports, did not quarrel with the GAO analysis — and in fact termed it helpful as his agency focuses on intercepting improvised explosive devices.
But Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Edmund “Kip” Hawley said the GAO testing does not take into account the many layers of security that occur before passengers reach the screening checkpoint and once they are through, the Dallas Morning News reports. Among them: checking travelers’ names against watch lists; analyzing behavior patterns; making security procedures less predictable; and deploying federal air marshals.
While deeming the report “interesting,” Hawley said it is “not at all an evaluation of the entire system. It’s a data point on that one particular thing.”
TSA has recently adapted its policies to give screeners more time to look for potential bomb components. In a December shift that sparked controversy, TSA removed small scissors and tools from its list of prohibited items.
The GAO test also occurred as TSA was in the midst of providing explosives-detection training for 18,000 screeners at the nation’s biggest airports, Hawley said. “Certainly, the training had not burned in,” he says.