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Sat, Mar 31, 2007

TSA Screeners Fail 'Red Team' Tests At Denver International Airport

Agents Successfully Sneak Weapons Through 90 Percent Of The Time

Security screeners at Denver International Airport have some explaining to do. Last month,  Transportation Security Administration screeners failed to find simulated weapons and explosive materials carried through by undercover agents roughly nine times out of 10.

And they can't blame the equipment. According to Denver's KUSA-9, alarms sounded on screening machines when they encountered suspect devices, just as they're supposed to -- but screeners failed to then follow standard procedures, such as hand-searching luggage and conducting closer inspections of suspect passengers.

"The good news is we have our own people probing and looking and examining the system," said Colorado congressman Ed Perlmutter, a member of the House homeland security and transportation committees. "The bad news is they're finding weaknesses."

Items used in the tests included liquid explosives and weapons inside carry-on luggage. In one case, an agent even taped an improvised explosive device to her leg... and convinced the screener it was a bandage from surgery, despite the alarms wailing in the background.

KUSA cites sources who state the TSA's Red Team -- a group originally formed by the FAA following the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, to test security procedures at the nation's airports -- was able to sneak approximately 90 percent of its simulated weapons past screeners at DEN.

TSA Security Director Ed Morris said the poor test results show the Red Team is doing its job -- crafting difficult tests, to keep screeners on their toes.

"We could put these tests together so that we have a 100 percent success rate every single time," Morris said. "Then, they wouldn't be challenging, they wouldn't be realistic and they really wouldn't be stretching the limits and the imagination of the Transportation Security officer."

Morris added other agents not connected to the Red Team also conduct security checks... and the agency's screeners pass most of those tests.

"If they miss something that's obvious, ... we will pull them off the line and retrain them," Morris said.

Morris' explanation doesn't quite match up with a study by the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General and the US Government Accountability Office, though, which in 2006 discovered widespread failures very similar to those uncovered by the Red Team at DEN.

In those tests, screeners at 15 airports missed 90 percent of the guns and explosives agents tried to sneak past TSA screeners.

"We understand that security is not perfect in every aspect, but we understand that we go about trying to be perfect every single day," Morris said.

And as we all know, perfection is hard to find... especially when smuggled through by an undercover agent...

FMI: www.tsa.gov

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