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Mon, Mar 20, 2006

Report: TSA Screeners Failed To Detect Explosives

GAO Says 21 Airports Tested... All Fail

Investigators who conducted secret tests of baggage screeners at nearly two dozen airports made a disturbing -- but perhaps not surprising -- find: according to a GAO report, all of the workers failed to detect bomb-making components and explosives hidden in luggage.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) conducted the clandestine review of airport security throughout the country. News reports indicate bomb making materials were passed through Transportation Security Administration passenger screening at 21 airports, without being detected.

"The fact that government investigators were able to pass through TSA's screening at 21 major airports with bomb making materials is frightening," said Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security, in a release by House Democrats.

"It's like the story of the Trojan Horse," Thompson added. "TSA has spent so much time telling people to take off their shoes and belts, that they have missed the bomb making materials."

The actual report, first reported by NBC News, remains classified. Which airports were tested is also unknown.

Despite evidence that at least some screeners are ineffective at what could be deemed their primary purpose, Homeland Security Assistant Secretary and TSA Chief Edmund "Kip" Hawley didn't argue with the apparent findings in the report -- nor did he seem particularly concerned.

While calling the report "interesting," and helpful, Hawley added it is "not at all an evaluation of the entire system. It's a data point on that one particular thing."

Hawley said the report doesn't take into account the levels of security that occur before passengers go through screening -- and once they're through. That includes checks of travelers' names against federal watch lists and behavioral analyses.

"This should not be an alarming report," Hawley said a briefing.



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