TSA screeners still fail to find guns, bombs

Going through airport security is such a pain these days. They’re still taking tubes of toothpaste, bottles of water, and anything else over three ounces away from passengers, and they’re still letting guns and bomb-making components pass right through.

A report from the Newark, N.J., Star-Ledger on Friday said that Transportation Security Administration screeners failed 20 of 22 security tests performed at Newark Liberty International Airport by “Red Team personnel, special agents tasked with testing airport security.

And this is with heightened, “orange” level “security” at airports nationwide.

“We can do better, and training is the path to improved performance,” said Mark Hatfield Jr., Newark Airport’s federal security director, declining to address specifics. “Test results are not a grade or a scorecard; they are a road map to perpetual improvement; any other characterization is simply misleading. We have to challenge ourselves to do better every day and be relentless in that pursuit.” — Newark Star-Ledger

In March, a classified Government Accountability Office report found that investigators were consistently able to smuggle bomb-making materials into airports, even through the more invasive secondary screening process.

Security expert Bruce Schneier says airport passenger screening is “a very hard problem to solve,” noting that the sheer monotony causes screeners to simply stop paying attention after a short while. “This psychological phenomenon isn’t just a problem in airport screening: It’s been identified in inspections of all kinds, and is why casinos move their dealers around so often. The tasks are simply mind-numbing.”

Schneier says that even so, a cursory screening is good enough, as it deters “the amateurs and the incompetent.” He recommends computer-assisted screening for baggage and “well-trained security personnel wandering around the airport, both in and out of uniform, looking for suspicious actions.”

Makes perfect sense to me. Which is why it will never happen, at least as long as government is in charge of security.