NOVEMBER 25, 2009
Despite getting hundreds of millions of tax dollars to fulfill its mission, the federal agency created after 9/11 to secure the nation’s transportation system continues to leave airplanes extremely vulnerable to another terrorist attack.
In the latest of numerous reports documenting the perpetual blunders of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General reveals that the agency is failing to ensure the security of boxed cargo on passenger planes. This leaves airplanes at risk for a terrorist attack, according to the inspector general.
The report, made public this week by a national newspaper, lists repeated problems with the TSA’s program to prevent terrorists from sneaking bombs into any of the tens of thousands of cargo packages transported daily in the bellies of passenger planes. Investigators easily slipped into “secure” warehouses where cargo is stored prior to being loaded on airplanes without ever being challenged by security personnel.
Additionally, the probe found that workers who handle the cargo had not received the required background checks or training, further adding to the security crisis. Simply put, air cargo is extremely vulnerable and the TSA has not been effective in making airlines and freight companies comply with security rules, according to investigators.
This is hardly earth-shattering news though it’s quite disturbing. A few years ago a separate Homeland Security Inspector General report revealed similar problems in the TSA’s dismal air cargo security system and numerous other investigations have exposed dozens of security failures in other crucial areas. Serious lapses have occurred nationwide and, in 2007, TSA workers at three major airports missed hundreds of fake bombs during a covert exercise conducted to see if suspicious items could be smuggled into secure areas.
The problems continue even though Congress has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the 43,000-member agency created after the 2001 terrorist attacks mainly to protect airlines. The TSA tells a much different story however, of an effective agency that guarantees airline passenger safety with a “robust layered security regime.” Indeed laughable.
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