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The U.S. government fails to properly vet people with access to secure areas at airports and harbors and those cleared to transport hazardous materials, according to a federal investigation launched by a Democrat who sits on the House Committee on Homeland Security.

News of this inconceivable homeland security vulnerability could not have come at a worse time, in the midst of heightened al-Qaeda activity that’s forced authorities to shut down a number of western embassies in the Middle East and Africa. It’s as if we’ve learned nothing from the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

In fact, the agency at the center of the probe—the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)—was created by Congress precisely to avoid a repeat of 9/11. Its duties are to protect the nation’s transportation system, mainly aviation. But the 56,000-employee TSA is also responsible for assuring that airport and seaport employees who access secure areas don’t have links to terrorism or other criminal offenses. The agency must also confirm immigration status.

This is done through the TSA’s Adjudication Center which employs contractors to help screen airline workers. Since 2003 the agency has conducted and/or overseen around 15 million background checks to reduce the probability of a terrorist or criminal attack on the nation’s transportation systems. This includes 450 airports and more than 350 seaports.

Relying on contractors to adjudicate security threat assessments poses risks, according to the new federal audit, which reveals that the center’s “timeliness and accuracy measures did not capture key data.” That sounds like diplomatic lingo for it cleared and credentialed job applicants who compromised national security.

In fact, investigators point out in their report that nearly two years ago a special working group already determined that “an excessive risk exists by allowing contractors to make security threat assessment approvals without sufficient federal oversight.” The TSA, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), is still completing a “review” and “updating” a plan to improve the system, this latest report says.  

In the meantime the country must continue to live with huge gaps in national security, hoping for the best because this multi-billion-dollar agency can’t get its act together more than a decade after the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Just a few days ago, a separate government report blasted the TSA for a different but equally severe issue, rampant employee misconduct.

Federal officers at the agency commit an outrageous number of security breaches, the audit revealed, including naps during work hours. From 2010 to 2012 TSA officers were cited for more than 9,600 cases of misconduct, according to the probe. In nearly 2,000 cases officers were sleeping on the job, not following procedures or letting relatives and friends bypass security checkpoints. Thousands of others failed to show up for work, appeared late or left their post without permission.

The TSA has been rocked by a number of other scandals over the years. Last summer, for instance, a congressional investigaiton revealed that the agency is so inept the country remains inexcusably vulnerable to a repeat of 9/11. That’s because, according to that probe, the TSA fails in one of its key missions; to properly vet foreign flight students before they can take lessons or get a pilot’s license in the U.S. Remember that Islamic terrorists trained as pilots at U.S. aviation schools before using passenger jets as weapons of mass destruction.

Prior to that the TSA has been under fire for regularly missing guns and bombs during random tests at major U.S. airports and failing to meet federal standards by not screening cargo and passengers on hundreds of planes. A few years the House Transportation Committee called for an overhaul of the TSA, saying that the bloated agency has failed miserably to fulfill its mission. The TSA has “grown into an enormous, inflexible and distracted bureaucracy” that has lost its focus on transportation security, according to the committee, which also found that the TSA “lacks administrative competency” and “suffers from bureaucratic morass and mismanagement.”

In another zinger last year, the former head of the TSA called the agency a national embarrassment that’s hopelessly bureaucratic and disconnected from the people it is meant to protect. In a newspaper article promoting his new book about the agency’s inner workings, former TSA had Kip Hawley assures that “airport security in America is broken” yet it has transformed air travel into an “unending nightmare for U.S. passengers and visitors from overseas.”

As the twelfth anniversary of 9/11 approaches a government report illustrates that the nation’s transportation system is not much safer than it was when Islamic terrorists carried out their plot using passenger airplanes as a weapon to murder thousands.

That’s because the 56,000-employee monster—the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)—created to protect mainly airports has for a decade been asleep at the wheel; literally! Misconduct is rampant at the TSA, according to the new probe, with federal officers at the agency committing an outrageous number of security breaches, including naps during work hours!

From 2010 to 2012 TSA officers were cited for more than 9,600 cases of misconduct, according to the probe, which was conducted by the investigative arm of the Congress, the Government Accountability Office (GAO). In nearly 2,000 cases officers were sleeping on the job, not following procedures or letting relatives and friends bypass security checkpoints. Thousands of others failed to show up for work, appeared late or left their post without permission.

Some TSA workers got busted stealing expensive electronic items, cash and other valuables from passengers, according to the GAO. Others allowed their relatives and friends to waltz through security with “prohibited items.” It’s as if the nation’s airport security is in the hands of a wild fraternity! The audit includes a number of specific examples that are sure to outrage the American taxpayers that fund the TSA to the tune of $7.7 billion a year.  

Even more outrageous is that the agency seldom punishes this sort of atrocious behavior among its employees, even though airport security is in their hands. In fact, congressional investigators state in their report that the “TSA does not have a process for conducting reviews of misconduct cases to verify that TSA staff at airports are complying with policies and procedures for adjudicating employee misconduct.”

As if that weren’t bad enough, the TSA doesn’t even bother recording all misconduct case outcomes so we really don’t know the true magnitude of the problem. It’s safe to bet that the numbers are much higher than the sampling provided to the GAO during its investigation. Responding to the report, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), also created after 9/11 and the TSA’s umbrella agency, has agreed to establish a process aimed at countering misconduct.

This isn’t terribly reassuring considering the TSA has been rocked by a number of scandals since Congress created it more than a decade ago and little has been done to correct the problems. The agency’s many transgressions have been well documented in a variety of federal audits over the years and there seems to be no end in sight to the crisis.

Last summer, for instance, a congressional audit revealed that the TSA is so inept the country remains inexcusably vulnerable to a repeat of 9/11. That’s because, according to the probe, the TSA fails in one of its key missions; to properly vet foreign flight students before they can take lessons or get a pilot’s license in the U.S. Remember that Islamic terrorists trained as pilots at U.S. aviation schools before intentionally crashing planes into the World Trade Center.

Before that the TSA has been under fire for regularly missing guns and bombs during random tests at major U.S. airports and failing to meet federal standards by not screening cargo and passengers on hundreds of planes. A few years the House Transportation Committee called for an overhaul of the TSA, saying that the bloated agency has failed miserably to fulfill its mission. The TSA has “grown into an enormous, inflexible and distracted bureaucracy” that has lost its focus on transportation security, according to the committee, which also found that the TSA “lacks administrative competency” and “suffers from bureaucratic morass and mismanagement.”

In another zinger last year, the former head of the TSA called the agency a national embarrassment that’s hopelessly bureaucratic and disconnected from the people it is meant to protect. In a newspaper article promoting his new book about the agency’s inner workings, former TSA had Kip Hawley assures that “airport security in America is broken” yet it has transformed air travel into an “unending nightmare for U.S. passengers and visitors from overseas.”

In yet another egregious example of government waste, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) continues funding an ineffective 6-year-old program that’s supposed to spot terrorists at airports but has failed miserably despite burning through a ghastly $878 million.

Incredibly, the feds seem to have no intention of killing the costly experiment, known as Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT), which is used by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to single out terrorists. SPOT was launched in 2007, has 2,800 workers—special Behavior Detection Officers—and is supposed to identify potential terrorists through behavioral clues. It was implemented with great fanfare as an innovative way to enhance aviation security after Islamic terrorist slammed commercial planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

 Instead, it has accomplished little though it keeps getting boatloads of taxpayer money. A new federal audit outlines the program’s latest problems but it’s hardly the first time the failures are officially documented. A few years ago a separate federal probe found that SPOT failed to detect terrorists at U.S. airports on nearly two dozen occasions. As a result the terrorists slipped right through “security” checkpoints and actually boarded commercial airplanes, the investigation found.

 In fact, federal investigators discovered that at least 16 of the terrorists who evaded the specialized Behavior Detection Officers were later charged or pleaded guilty to terrorism charges after slipping through eight different U.S. airports with SPOT programs. Making things worse, most of the airports where terrorists boarded planes ranked among the top 10 highest risk on the TSA’s Airport Threat Assessment list. Read more about this scandal in this Judicial Watch report.

Years later nothing has changed, according to the latest federal report released just days ago by the DHS Inspector General. It says that $878 million dollars later the TSA cannot ensure that its behavior detection program is cost-effective or that it even works. In fact, the agency’s watchdog flat out says in its report that the “TSA has not implemented a strategic plan to ensure the program’s success.” SPOT is in such disarray that the TSA doesn’t even have a comprehensive training program or a financial plan, the DHS IG says.

This is simply the latest of many scandals to rock the TSA, the multi-billion-dollar government agency created to secure the nation’s transportation system—mainly aviation—after 9/11.  More than a decade later the massive, 65,000-employee Homeland Security agency is so inept that the county remains inexcusably vulnerable to a repeat of 9/11, according to a federal report released last summer.

Over the years the TSA has failed to do its job of adequately screening luggage, passengers and properly vetting foreign flight students. Remember the Islamic terrorists that slammed passenger jets into the World Trade Center and Pentagon trained as pilots at U.S. aviation schools. Among the TSA’s duties is to screen foreign nationals who enroll in U.S. flight schools via an Alien Flight Student Program (AFSP).

Last summer’s audit focused on the AFSP and revealed that, all these years later, it still fails to screen foreign nationals who enroll in American flight schools and doesn’t bother to determine if candidates are in the country legally. In fact, the agency doesn’t even keep an updated database of background checks and investigators found that records were missing for 25,000 foreign nationals who trained as pilots here.

The TSA has committed a number of other transgressions, which have been well documented over the years. They include regularly missing guns and bombs during random tests at major U.S. airports and failing to meet federal standards by not screening cargo and passengers on hundreds of thousands of planes that fly over the U.S. annually.

 A few years ago a scathing report issued by a House Transportation Committee called for an overhaul of the TSA, saying that the inept and bloated agency has failed miserably to fulfill its mission. The TSA has “grown into an enormous, inflexible and distracted bureaucracy” that has lost its focus on transportation security, according to the committee’s report. It further states that the TSA “lacks administrative competency” and “suffers from bureaucratic morass and mismanagement.”

Federal officers responsible for airport security in Hawaii’s largest airport have given a new meaning to the popular island greeting “hang loose” by kicking back on the government’s dime while luggage got on planes unscreened.

This went on for months at Honolulu International Airport, according to an audit released by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General. It gets better. Supervisors from the DHS agency in charge, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), admitted they knowingly violated the rules.

In some cases TSA officers “were not screening any bags at all” for overseas flights, TSA Administrator John Pistole admits. Pistole also agrees with many of the abhorrent things his agency watchdog uncovered, acknowledging “widespread and frequent failures” in security at Honolulu Airport. Dozens of TSA officers and supervisors have actually admitted they knew they were blowing off the rules.

So now what? TSA says it fired more than 30 workers, including its Hawaii-based security director. In its report the DHS IG recommends the obvious; that the TSA better supervise and monitor staffers in Honolulu and that supervisors ensure assigned staff are performing screening duties in accordance with all standard operating procedures. This goes without saying and shouldn’t have to be put in writing by an agency watchdog.

The report is simply the latest of many outlining serious problems with airport security. Congress created the monstrous, 65,000-employee TSA after the 2001 terrorist attacks to secure the nation’s transportation system—mainly aviation—yet the agency’s transgressions have been well documented in a variety of federal audits.

Over the summer a congressional audit revealed that the TSA is so inept the country remains inexcusably vulnerable to a repeat of 9/11. That’s because, according to the probe, the TSA fails in one of its key missions; to properly vet foreign flight students before they can take lessons or get a pilot’s license in the U.S. Remember that Islamic terrorists trained as pilots at U.S. aviation schools before intentionally crashing planes into the World

Over the years the TSA has also committed a number of other transgressions, including regularly missing guns and bombs during random tests at major U.S. airports and failing to meet federal standards by not screening cargo and passengers on hundreds of thousands of planes. Last fall a scathing report issued by a House Transportation Committee called for an overhaul of the TSA, saying that the bloated agency has failed miserably to fulfill its mission. The TSA has “grown into an enormous, inflexible and distracted bureaucracy” that has lost its focus on transportation security, according to the committee’s report. It further states that the TSA “lacks administrative competency” and “suffers from bureaucratic morass and mismanagement.”

In another zinger earlier this year, the former head of the TSA called the agency a national embarrassment that’s hopelessly bureaucratic and disconnected from the people it is meant to protect. In a newspaper article promoting his new book about the agency’s inner workings, former TSA had Kip Hawley assures that “airport security in America is broken” yet it has transformed air travel into an “unending nightmare for U.S. passengers and visitors from overseas.”

 

 

Just when you thought the scandals involving U.S. airport security couldn’t possibly get any worse, a Philadelphia newspaper reports that the Department of Homeland Security hired a defrocked priest accused of molesting children without bothering to complete a background check.

It’s as if Abbott & Costello are in charge of airport security in the United States. Otherwise how could one explain the many transgressions of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the monstrous agency created by Congress to secure the nation’s transportation system—mainly aviation—after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It’s generously funded to the tune of billions annually and has 65,000 employees yet can’t get the job done.

Just a few months ago a federal audit trashed the TSA, essentially saying that the DHS agency is so inept, the country remains inexcusably vulnerably to a repeat of 9/11. That’s partly because it doesn’t adequately screen luggage and passengers but mainly because it fails to properly vet foreign flight students. Remember that the Islamic terrorists who intentionally crashed planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon trained as pilots in U.S. aviation schools and the TSA is supposed to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Other mishaps include approving background checks for illegal immigrants to work in sensitive areas of major U.S. airports, guns and bombs regularly getting past officers during random tests and failing to meet federal standards by not screening cargo.  When a loaded gun slipped through “security” at Los Angeles International Airport last fall, the TSA appeared particularly stupid, saying it was another agency’s “issue” because its “mandate is to screen baggage for explosives” not loaded guns.

Considering this history, it may not seem all that surprising that the agency hired a defrocked priest with a shady history as a security officer at a major U.S. airport. The man, Thomas Harkins, was removed from the ministry by the Diocese of Camden over allegations that he had molested a pair of grade-school girls, according to the news report.  He was never criminally prosecuted but the diocese doled out nearly $200,000 to settle civil lawsuits.

At Philadelphia International Airport Harkins, who earns $75,600 a year, oversees screening operations for checked baggage but he once patted down airline passengers as they went through the facility’s security checkpoint. The TSA admits in the story that it never completed his background check. Here’s why; he was hired at a time when the agency was initially “staffing up” to protect airports from terrorists and background checks were often not completed.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s unfathomable that a decade after the worst terrorist attacks in U.S. history, the multi-billion-dollar government agency created to secure the nation’s transportation system—mainly aviation—is so inept that the country remains inexcusably vulnerable to a repeat of 9/11.

That’s essentially what the latest of many federal audits reveals about the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the massive, 65,000-employee Homeland Security agency created by Congress after the 2001 terrorist attacks. The seemingly elusive mission is to secure transportation by adequately screening luggage, passengers and properly vetting foreign flight students.

After all, Islamic terrorists, trained as pilots at U.S. aviation schools, intentionally crashed planes into the World Trade Center and Pentagon. When Congress created the TSA a year later, one of its key duties was to scrutinize all foreign flight students before they can take lessons or get a pilot’s license in the U.S. This is essential because the al Qaeda terrorists who piloted the jetliners in 2001 trained in schools in Florida, Arizona and Minnesota.

As the 11th anniversary of the attacks approaches, the TSA’s Alien Flight Student Program (AFSP) still fails to screen foreign nationals who enroll in U.S. flight schools, according to a report published this week by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative arm of the U.S. Congress. In fact, the agency isn’t even keeping its database of background checks up to date and investigators found that records were missing for 25,000 foreign nationals who trained as pilots here.

It gets better. The TSA’s special program doesn’t even bother to determine if the candidates are in the country illegally. This has been reported before. In fact, well over a year ago a flight school in Stow Massachusetts, a rural community about 25 miles west of Boston, made headlines because it was operated by an illegal immigrant who somehow got a U.S. pilot’s license and more than 30 illegal aliens, cleared by the TSA, were enrolled and training to fly planes.   

Pilots are actually licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), but the agency relies on the TSA for criminal and immigration background checks. The TSA is also responsible for clearing airport workers who enter secure areas. In previous years the agency actually approved background checks for illegal immigrants to work in sensitive areas of busy airports in various parts of the country.

Considering this, the GAO puts it way too diplomatically by saying “weaknesses exist in the vetting process” for “identifying flight students who may be in the country illegally.” Investigators recommend that the TSA “identify how often and why foreign nationals are not vetted under AFSP and develop a plan for assessing the results of efforts to identify AFSP-approved foreign flight students who entered the country illegally.”

Don’t hold your breath. It’s been more than a decade and the TSA can’t get its act together, despite being generously funded by Congress. The agency’s many transgressions have been well documented over the years and include regularly missing guns and bombs during random tests at major U.S. airports and failing to meet federal standards by not screening cargo and passengers on hundreds of thousands of planes that fly over the U.S. annually.

Last fall a scathing report issued by a House Transportation Committee called for an overhaul of the TSA, saying that the inept and bloated agency has failed miserably to fulfill its mission. The TSA has “grown into an enormous, inflexible and distracted bureaucracy” that has lost its focus on transportation security, according to the committee’s report. It further states that the TSA “lacks administrative competency” and “suffers from bureaucratic morass and mismanagement.”

In another zinger earlier this year, the former head of the TSA called the agency a national embarrassment that’s hopelessly bureaucratic and disconnected from the people it is meant to protect. In a newspaper article promoting his new book about the agency’s inner workings, former TSA had Kip Hawley assures that “airport security in America is broken” yet it has transformed air travel into an “unending nightmare for U.S. passengers and visitors from overseas.”

In the latest scandal to rock the agency charged with securing aviation from another terrorist attack, high-ranking officials at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) are concealing nearly half of the breaches at major airports across the United States.

It’s simply one of many shameful lapses for the monstrous federal agency created after 9/11 to protect the nation’s transportation system, mainly aviation. With 65,000 employees and a virtually unlimited budget, the TSA has made headlines over the years 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.

Just last month, the former head of the TSA said the agency is a national embarrassment that remains hopelessly bureaucratic and disconnected from the people it is meant to protect. Less than a year ago a House Transportation Committee called for an overhaul of the TSA, referring to the agency as inept and bloated. The congressional panel determined that, a decade after its creation, the TSA “lacks administrative competency” and “suffers from bureaucratic morass and mismanagement.”  

This week an alarming federal report, issued by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, reveals top ranking TSA managers are not telling the head office about nearly half of the security breaches at the country’s major airports. This compromises security by making it more difficult to spot dangerous weaknesses in the national fight against terrorism, according to the DHS inspector general.  

The facilities and the actual number of breaches were redacted for security reasons, but the audit covers unreported security violations at six major U.S. airports over a 16-month period. The average rate of reported breaches among the six facilities was only 53%, according to the DHS IG investigators. The only airport identified is New Jersey’s Newark Liberty because a senator from that state, Democrat Frank Lautenberg, ordered the probe after reading about a series of security breaches at the facility in his hometown paper. 

In a statement posted on his website, Lautenberg, who is Vice Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, said the new report identifies a “gaping hole” in airport security. He reminds that “the recent attempt by al-Qaeda to take down a U.S.-bound airliner showed us that terrorists are still determined to exploit aviation security gaps in order to attack America.”

What is causing this gaping hole in airport security? Get ready for this; the TSA doesn’t have a comprehensive oversight program to gather information about all security breaches, according to the IG, and therefore can’t monitor trends that could improve security. Furthermore, the TSA doesn’t provide the necessary guidance and oversight to ensure all breaches are consistently reported, tracked and corrected. As a result the agency doesn’t have a “complete understanding of breaches occurring at the nation’s airports and misses opportunities to strengthen aviation security.” This is more than a decade after the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history! 

 

More than a decade after the worst terrorist attacks in U.S. history it’s a national embarrassment that our airport security system remains so hopelessly bureaucratic and disconnected from the people it is meant to protect. 

That harsh assessment comes from the former head of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the 65,000-employee agency created after 9/11 to protect the nation’s transportation system. Instead it is best known for compromising national security and invasive, genital-groping personal searches of innocent citizens.

Over the years 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.

Last year the agency missed a suitcase filled with explosives that blasted after a three-hour domestic flight and it came under fire when a veteran commercial airline pilot exposed grave security flaws at San Francisco Airport. The pilot actually posted video on the internet showing ground crews entering the airfield without undergoing any sort of screening process.

 The TSA has also been blasted for failing to meet federal standards by not screening cargo and passengers on hundreds of thousands of planes that fly over the U.S. annually. This could allow a terrorist to explode a plane with a dirty bomb, biological or nuclear weapon, according to a veteran U.S. intelligence operative who assessed the matter.

In November a scathing House Transportation Committee report called for an overhaul of the TSA, referring to the agency as inept and bloated. Titled “A Decade Later: A Call for TSA Reform,” the report outlines the Homeland Security agency’s endless transgressions and concludes that it has “grown into an enormous, inflexible and distracted bureaucracy” that has lost its focus on transportation security. The TSA “lacks administrative competency” and “suffers from bureaucratic morass and mismanagement,” the report further states.

No wonder the one-time head of the TSA, Kip Hawley, calls it a national embarrassment in a newspaper article promoting his new book about the agency’s inner workings. “Airport security in America is broken,” he says. “The crux of the problem, as I learned in my years at the helm, is our wrongheaded approach to risk. In attempting to eliminate all risk from flying, we have made air travel an unending nightmare for U.S. passengers and visitors from overseas, while at the same time creating a security system that is brittle where it needs to be supple.”

Hawley points out that the TSA’s mission is to prevent a catastrophic attack on the transportation system, not to ensure that every single passenger can avoid harm while traveling. Never again will a terrorist be able to breach the cockpit simply with a box cutter or a knife, Hawley writes, because the cockpit doors have been reinforced, and passengers, flight crews and air marshals would intervene.

A variety of suggestions are offered by Hawley to improve airport security, but the bottom line remains; he no longer heads the TSA and those who do should work to improve the situation. After all, the agency gets monstrous amounts of taxpayer dollars to fulfill its mission. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano asked Congress to increase the TSA’s budget this year by $459 million to a whopping $8.1 billion. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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