JANUARY 12, 2010
Once again highlighting how dangerously incompetent the nation’s airline security system is, a passenger with tuberculosis took a 2,600-mile flight on a commercial plane even though his name appeared on a Homeland Security “do-not-board” list.
Authorities evidently realized that the visibly ill man had violated their security system after the flight, which originated in Philadelphia, landed at its San Francisco destination more than five hours later. The man was then detained and whisked away to a local hospital after federal health officials were notified.
The damage had been done, however. Hundreds of unsuspecting passengers were needlessly exposed to the highly contagious fatal disease that primarily affects the lungs and can spread to the kidneys and spinal column. The infected male passenger slipped through even though he appeared on a do-not-board list submitted to both the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
He was noticeably ill, according to news reports, and government investigators are working to determine how he made it through security checkpoints and onto the flight. Imagine if the TB-infected passenger was a terrorist, who like the Nigerian Christmas Day bomber, boarded a flight even though his name appeared on one of those infamous government no-fly lists.
This incident is simply the latest of many illustrating how vulnerable the nation’s transportation system is, especially aviation. The TSA was created after the 2001 terrorist attacks to secure the system but instead the 43,000-member Homeland Security agency is best known for its perpetual blunders despite getting billions of dollars from Congress to complete its mission.
Airplanes remain extremely vulnerable to terrorist attacks, according to various Homeland Security Inspector General probes, because the TSA fails to ensure the security of cargo packages transported on passenger planes and agency workers who handle cargo don’t receive the required background checks or training.
Dozens of other security failures have been documented over the years in other crucial areas nationwide, including TSA workers at three major airports missing hundreds of fake bombs during a covert exercise to determine if suspicious items could be smuggled into secure areas. Just a few weeks ago the TSA gave security badges to a dozen illegal immigrants who had presented fake Social Security numbers and other bogus documents to work in sensitive areas of a busy U.S. airport.
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