Rest easy, citizens: TSA finds almost 1 in 20 test bombs during screening

A few weeks ago I had to go back to DC yet again for the Right Online conference and it involved flying in and out of Reagan, as well as Newark. As usual, I stood in the long lines – even with my previous screening check mark on my boarding passes – and went through all the rituals of unloading some of my things and passing through a detector. When I arrived at the hotel I opened my bag to find the usual TSA greeting card indicating that they had searched my checked baggage, no matter how much of a “trusted traveler” I may be at some airports. But through all of that, I had the slight consolation of knowing that our government was on the job. Lots of bad things might happen… I could be delayed. (I was. In both directions.) The weather could be awful. (It was.) The drinks could be horrendously overpriced at the hotel. (Don’t even get me started.) But at least I knew one thing:

The plane wasn’t going to blow up and fall out of the sky with me in it.

I expect to put up with a lot of unpleasantness on the plane and that expectation is generally met. But the one thing I don’t want to deal with is a bomb. So I suppose we need to deal with the TSA nonsense because that’s still a win as long as they catch all the bombs.

Ah, America. So much for that theory.

An internal investigation by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has revealed some disturbing gaps in the security screening at some of the nation’s busiest airports.

Investigators with the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General (IG) went undercover and were able to smuggle mock explosives or banned weapons through checkpoints in 95 percent of trials. The IG’s report found that TSA agents failed 67 out of 70 tests.

The tests were conducted by what the department calls “Red Teams”. The team members pose as passengers who try to beat the system.

“Red Team testing of the aviation security network has been part of TSA’s mission advancement for 13 years,” explained a Department of Homeland Security spokesman. “The numbers in these reports never look good out of context, but they are a critical element in the continual evolution of our aviation security.”

Upon learning of the failures, the spokesman said, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson “immediately directed TSA to implement a series of actions, several of which are now in place, to address the issues raised in the report.”

I suppose we would need to know the details of how the tests were structured, what they used to simulate the “fake bombs” or threats and all the rest before passing final judgement. But… a 5% success rate? You’re missing 19 out of 20 and that’s really not even a passing grade in soccer. Look, I get that you were probably worked up over the chance to see all the nudie pics of the young women in the screening machine, but after a while even that’s got to get boring. One would imagine that you’ve gotten back to the business of looking at the x-ray scans of the bags and checking for exploding shoes or belts by now. How are we doing this badly?

More to the point, why would you release this information to the public? Somewhere across the ocean, whoever replaced the members of the Khorasan group (after we killed off the last batch) must be kicking themselves in the butt. Wait… you mean we could have just stuffed them in a suitcase? Abdul! You idiot!

We seem to keep electing people who don’t have the real world experience to run a lemonade stand. On top of that, they appear to be appointing and hiring folks without much more in the way of critical skills. So… would you rather go back to taking your chances on not being on the plane that blows up and getting through the airport faster? Or should we hire more and better TSA people who might have a shot at finding at least half the bombs?