Is "Bungle" Too Strong A Word Here?
A report by the Government
Accountability Office casts further doubt on the effectiveness of
airport security, reports CBS News.
To test vulnerabilities in the passenger screening process, GAO
investigators conducted secret tests at 19 airports earlier this
year... and were able to sneak through TSA checkpoints, undetected,
with components used to assemble makeshift explosive devices,
according to the report.
"Our tests clearly demonstrate that a terrorist group, using
publicly available information and a few resources, could cause
severe damage to an airplane and threaten the safety of
passengers," the report states.
During the tests, investigators snuck through parts used to make
two probable terrorist devices -- an improvised explosive device
(IED) consisting of a "liquid explosive and a low yield detonator,"
and an improvised incendiary device (IID) "created by combining
commonly available products (one of which is a liquid) that TSA
prohibits in carry-on luggage."
In each case, bomb parts were purchased over the Internet or a
local store for roughly $150, according to the GAO... and
undercover agents were able to transport the components "through
TSA checkpoints and onto airline flights without being challenged
by transportation security officers."
That's not to say TSA screeners weren't looking for suspicious
items... just that, perhaps, they weren't looking for the right
ones. The report details one interaction between a TSA officer and
an investigator, in which the TSA screener confiscated a small,
unlabeled bottle of medical shampoo -- a "legitimate toiletry
item," according to the report.
(Prepare now to smack your forehead in disgust --
"However, a liquid component of the IID -- despite being
prohibited by TSA -- was allowed to pass undetected through the
The GAO does state more advanced technology, such as
"backscatter"-type imaging systems now under development and in
testing, might help screeners see the forest through the trees. But
those systems are still a ways away from being deployed en masse...
which means for now, the TSA will have to rely on undercover
testing to keep screeners on their toes, as it were.
CBS News security analyst Paul Kurtz says the GAO report
underscores fears a team of terrorists could easily thwart the
TSA's finest, six years after the 9/11 terror attacks.
"If you start to break up all the components over several
different people, and you bring them in in different ways, on your
person, in your carry-on luggage, how is a TSA screener supposed to
put all those pieces together?" Kurtz asks.