AUGUST 23, 2011
A decade after the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history the Homeland Security agency created to protect the nation’s transportation system clears “individuals who pose a threat” to work in “secure” areas of American airports.It may seem like a bad joke but it’s reality at the perpetually inept Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the 55,000-employee monster created after 9/11 to avoid another terrorist attack. Instead the agency that embarrasses innocent citizens with invasive, genital-groping personal searches has been marred by a series of gaffes that have left the country vulnerable amid increasing threats of terrorism.Since its creation the TSA has made headlines for regularly missing guns and bombs during random tests at major U.S. airports, approving background checks for illegal immigrants to work in sensitive areas of busy airports and clearing dozens of illegal aliens to train as pilots just as several of the 9/11 hijackers did. The agency has also seen several agents arrested for official misconduct, including stealing from passengers’ bags at some of the nation’s busiest airports.This month a federal audit reveals that, after nearly a decade, the TSA still can’t guarantee that agents working in “secure” areas of airports don’t pose a risk. That’s because the agency doesn’t always verify the identity of job applicants or even their legal status against a government immigration database. This means that the TSA can’t account for agency employees with access to secure areas of airports, according to a Homeland Security Inspector General report made public a few days ago.Portions of the report have been redacted for security reasons, but the big picture is clear: “The safety of airport workers, passengers, and aircraft is at risk due to the vulnerabilities in the airport operator badging process,” according to the inspector general. Investigators found that only 193 of 280 airports could provide reports of the locations where high-security workers were stationed.The recommendations to fix the problem are almost comical because they simply require common sense. For example, the IG suggests verifying the identity of TSA job applicants, accurately vetting their personal information and requiring airports to conduct criminal record checks for badge holders to assure individuals who commit “disqualifying crimes” are stripped of their access to secure airport areas.While the higher ups at the TSA work to implement these simple procedures, the agency keeps getting enormous amounts of taxpayer dollars to fulfill its mission despite its many failures. President Obama has given the agency more than $3 billion in recovery funds and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano wants Congress to increase its 2012 budget by $459 million to a whopping $8.1 billion.
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