OCTOBER 19, 2007
Airport security screeners at the federal agency created to protect the nationâ??s transportation system after the 2001 terrorist attacks missed hundreds of fake bombs during tests.
The covert exercises were held at three major airports to see if the suspicious items could be smuggled into secure areas. Simulated explosives were hidden in clothing, toiletry kits and even compact disc players. Authorities say the appearance of the items should have caused alarm to the screener yet most of the time they passed through without question.
A classified report obtained by a national newspaper reveals that, in more than 60% of the cases, security screeners failed to find the fake bombs hidden on undercover agents posing as passengers.
The tests were conducted at Chicagoâ??s Oâ??Hare International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport and San Francisco International Airport. Los Angeles, among the worldâ??s busiest airports, had the worst record with federal screeners missing 75% of the bogus bombs. Oâ??Hare screeners missed about 60% of the bombs and San Francisco screeners missed 20%, but that airport uses a private security firm instead of government employees.
Most of the nationâ??s major airports use screeners from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), a 43,000-employee agency created after the terrorist attacks to secure the nationâ??s transportation systems. Ironically, TSA assures that families can travel safely because, among other things, its agents â??look for bombs at checkpoints in airports.â?
The truth, however, is that since the federal government took over most airport security in 2002, screeners have more frequently missed identifying fake bombs during tests. Other security breaches have also taken place. For instance, earlier this month a loaded gun was found in a trash can beyond the security checkpoint at Tucson International Airport.
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