In undercover tests, TSA failed to detect weapons more than 70% of the time

If you score less than 30% on a test, you failed badly. Fox News reports that undercover tests at airport security checkpoints resulted in a TSA failure to detect mock weapons more than 70% of the time:

Undercover Homeland Security investigators trying to sneak mock knives, guns and explosives past TSA agents at airports reportedly were successful around third-quarters of the time, according to multiple reports of a classified briefing that was given to a House committee.

The undercover agents carrying the items slipped past security checkpoints more than 70 percent of the time, CBS News reported, while a source told ABC News that the figure was around 80 percent.

“I found that briefing disturbing,” Rep. Michael McCaul, the Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said at a public hearing Wednesday. “We need to do more to confront the growing threats aimed at the aviation sector.”

The findings of the undercover tests are classified but the report contains a list of 8 recommendations for improvements. ABC News reported in 2015 that a very similar series of tests showed even worse results:

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…

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.

So we’ve gone from 95% failure to somewhere in the neighborhood of 80% failure. Maybe TSAs PR department will claim that’s an improvement but it still means the bad guys are going to get their weapons on the plane 4 out of 5 times. The TSA is asking for money to add new screening machines that are better at checking carry-on bags.

Clearly what we’re doing now is not working and probably has never worked, but there is another way. As this Wall Street Journal report from 2010 points out, Israel has a system based on asking questions of passengers and focusing more attention on people whose background and behavior warrants it.