Following an ABC News report that undercover agents were able to smuggle items such as a fake bomb and weapons through airport TSA checkpoints in 67 out of 70 attempts, Homeland Security Directir Jeh Johnson announced sweeping changes to TSA procedures.
The TSA’s secret Red Team has been conducting sting operations to test the country’s aviation network security for 13 years. Recently, an undercover agent was able to take a fake bomb strapped to his back through security even after being patted down and setting off a magnetometer.
While the Inspector General’s report on these incidences remains classified, Johnson publicly stated that the TSA is aggressively addressing these vulnerabilities. He directed the TSA leadership to immediately revise its standard operating procedures in light of these findings. Johnson also ordered training on these lapses for all TSA officers and supervisors.
The TSA is also retesting and reevaluating its screening equipment, and Johnson said that he will personally meet with the senior executives of the companies that develop the equipment to get their assistance in remedying flaws in the systems. In addition, he is appointing a team of senior DHS and TSA senior leaders to oversee these remedial actions and to report their progress bi-weekly.
Johnson reassigned the acting TSA administrator to another DHS post, and Obama nominated US Coast Guard Vice Admiral Pete Neffenger to be the new TSA administrator.
The DHS Secretary publicly stated his confidence in the TSA screening process and pointed out that the agency screened a record number of people and seized a record number of prohibited items in the last fiscal year.
Fortunately, the work of the Red Team will help to protect us all in the long run as the DHS intensifies the TSA screening process.