TSA fails most tests in latest undercover operation at US airports

(ABC NEWS) - In recent undercover tests of multiple airport security checkpoints by the Department of Homeland Security, inspectors said screeners, their equipment or their procedures failed more than half of the time, according to a source familiar with the classified report.

When ABC News asked the source familiar with the report if the failure rate was 80 percent, the response was, “You are in the ballpark.”

In a public hearing following a private, classified briefing to the House Committee on Homeland Security, members of Congress called the failures by the Transportation Security Administration "disturbing."

Rep. Mike Rogers went as far as to tell TSA Administrator David Pekoske, "This agency that you run is broken badly and it needs your attention."

Pekoske was confirmed by the Senate this summer.

Inspectors "identified vulnerabilities with TSA's screener performance, screening equipment, and associated procedures," according to a statement from the Department of Homeland Security.

The statement adds that the findings remain classified but that eight recommendations have been made to TSA to improve checkpoint security. It is not clear what those recommendations are.

The news of the failure comes two years after ABC News reported that secret teams from DHS found that TSA failed 95 percent of the time to stop inspectors from covertly smuggling weapons or explosive materials through screening.

That report led to major changes ordered at TSA by then-Homeland Security Secretary Jay Johnson. The agency opened a training academy for transportation security officers and changed procedures to reduce long lines.

While still being described by lawmakers as a poor performance, TSA performed better in this round of testing than two years ago, according to the source familiar with the report.

In the public hearing today on Capitol Hill, members pushed for the full implementation of new scanner equipment that creates a 3D image of bags, giving screeners better ability to spot threatening items.

The equipment is ready and being tested in TSA checkpoints in at least two airports, but software and installation challenges have slowed wider implementation.

Rep. Bill Keating questioned if the diversion of money from the agency is being used to build the president’s border wall.

"We have the technology and resources to do it but we're not doing it because ... we're paying for a wall,” Keating said.

The congressman also noted that Viper teams, specially trained Homeland Security teams that use canines to secure transportation facilities, are being cut from 31 to eight.

It is not clear when the report will be released publicly.

The TSA said in a statement that the agency "concurs with the DHS OIG findings and is committed to aggressively implementing the recommendations."

“We take the OIG’s findings very seriously and are implementing measures that will improve screening effectiveness at checkpoints,” said TSA administrator David Pekoske. “We are focused on staying ahead of a dynamic threat to aviation with continued investment in the workforce, enhanced procedures and new technologies,” he added.


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