NEWS

TSA Tester Gets Fake Bomb Past Screener, Reports CNN

By Matthew Harwood

CNN reports a covert tester from the Transportation Security Administration was able to slip a fake improvised explosive device past an airport screener recently at Tampa International Airport while its camera crew recorded it.

To watch the video, click here.

As CNN makes plain, TSA hasn't performed well during security tests; however, the agency's reaction to its performance should inspire confidence in its dedication.

While test results are classified and rarely leak out, those that have been disclosed typically don't inspire confidence. In tests conducted in 2006 and disclosed to USA Today last year, investigators successfully smuggled 75 percent of fake bombs through checkpoints at Los Angeles International Airport, 60 percent through Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and 20 percent at San Francisco International Airport.

The TSA has disputed some test methodologies and test results. But instead of running from tests, the agency has embraced the idea that testing has a value that goes beyond measuring the performance of individual screeners.

According to CNN, after the screener learned of his mistake, he was devastated. The lesson learned though is an important one: terrorists will hide behind human frailty and cultural sensitivities to accomplish their mission. In this case, Jason—the covert tester—camouflaged the IED as a back brace. 

TSA said covert testing such as this is necessary to expose and address systematic vulnerabilities at airport screening checkpoints. Used effectively, tests increase the awareness of screeners, says TSA. They also allow TSA to determine if terrorist plots uncovered on known terrorist Web sites are plausible or implausible, and in the process, keep TSA and its screeners on top of the terrorists' learning curve.

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