Monday, October 29, 2007

I Feel Safer, too

I've long felt that putting airport security in the hands of the TSA/federal government has meant we have a huge presence of security personnel, but very little actual security. Nowadays, even though the security screening process is about the same as it ever was (well, taking off our shoes is a new and unwelcome addition, I guess), there are a bazillion times more personnel wandering around with TSA patches on their uniforms. But even though they are visible, they don't provide much in the way of actual security.

Recent tests revealed that 3/4 of fake "test bombs" made it through security in Los Angeles, 60% in Chicago. TSA personnel were the testers, attempting to bring in bomb parts and paraphernalia in their carry-ons to test the search procedures at these airports.
Screeners at Los Angeles International Airport missed about 75% of simulated explosives and bomb parts that Transportation Security Administration testers hid under their clothes or in carry-on bags at checkpoints, the TSA report shows.
But look at the performance (with the same tests) at an airport that doesn't have TSA involved in security:
San Francisco International Airport screeners, who work for a private company instead of the TSA, missed about 20% of the bombs, the report shows.
But even better? San Francisco managed to keep that percentage despite being tested twice as often. The TSA ran about 70 tests at Los Angeles, 75 at Chicago and 145 at San Francisco

The TSA claims that the private company in San Francisco is just responding to the fact they are facing more covert tests, so they are ready for them. Uh-huh. No real comment on the fact that the TSA (except for a short period directly after 9/11) has always had poorer results than private companies both before and after TSA was installed as primary airport security. Their failure rate has been climbing steadily. Admittedly, the tests are harder now, but that really doesn't make me feel any better about a 20% success rate.

Tests earlier in 2002 showed screeners missing 60% of fake bombs. In the late 1990s, tests showed that screeners missed about 40% of fake bombs, according to a separate report by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.

Comments on the USA Today story tended to the "way to go! Tell the terrorists what our weaknesses are!" and castigating the newspaper for printing the story because it was a security risk. I really don't understand that response-- do they think that actual terrorists are stupid? That they aren't already aware of chinks in our "homeland security"? It's bad to report that TSA is getting an F in actual security, but not bad that they are failing? That does seem to be a hall mark of this administration, I guess -- it's the leak that's the problem, not the activity that prompted it. I supposed it makes good Talk Radio fodder, but as for me, I'm just boggled by that attitude.

Yes, I do worry that someone could bring materials on board, but it's honestly pretty low on my list of things I'm worried about. Never mind that they don't actually scan all the cargo on the planes, that only 1% of incoming cargo is checked at rail lines or harbors...there are things I am far more worried about than revealing the major faults of our security plan.

At least TSA never misses those contraband water bottles. Yay!

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