The TSA Is Improving, Only Failing ~80% Of Tests

Filed Under: Security/TSA

It continues to blow my mind how ineffective the TSA is. Back in 2015, the TSA failed 67 of 70 tests that were conducted around the nation, which involved undercover officers smuggling banned items through security. That’s right, they have a ~95% failure rate. At least up until recently, the TSA has been consistent. In July a similar test was conducted, where 16 of 17 tests were failed, which is a similar failure rate.

I simply can’t wrap my head around how this is acceptable. Earlier in the year we saw the federal government imposing ridiculous (and dangerous) bans on electronics for flights from the Middle East to the US, while for flights departing the US, 95% of weapons go undetected.

Information is now coming out about the latest tests conducted by the Department of Homeland Security, in which undercover agents brought weapons through TSA checkpoint. This time around they’re not revealing exact numbers, but rather are only giving ballpark figures.

The DHS has said that the TSA failed over half of the time in the most recent tests. CBS News reports that the TSA failed over 70% of the time, while ABC News reports that they were informed that the failure rate was in the ballpark of 80%.

Hey, if the TSA only failed 70-80% of the time, that’s a significant improvement over failing over 95% of the time, no? The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee is quoted as saying that he found the briefing disturbing. It’s disturbing to me that after years of even worse results, this comes as any sort of a surprise, and that nothing has been done about it up until now.

The committee is pushing for the implementation of new scanners that would create 3D images of bags, though widespread implementation of these would require the TSA to get an increased budget (or maybe allocate their budget differently, but I don’t have high hopes of that being done effectively).

I hate to say it, but to me it’s a miracle that nothing major has happened after security at US airports since 9/11…

(Tip of the hat to The Points Guy)

  1. No sure what pi.ess me off more. 1 – that a terrorist or a crazy man may get on plane with explosive or loaded gun or 2 – I’m paying all these 9/11 and TSA fees (taxes) that has another useless purpose.
    At least Delta could allow these fees to be part of MQM, but no.. It is just wasted money from my pocket

  2. TSA is a joke, my own personal experiences with them gave me the impression that they cares about showing their authority and power over you rather than focusing on their job to ensure safety compliance of the passengers. I wonder if the TSA employees knows what TSA stands for? Also what are their job scope?

  3. @Endre,
    Most of your TSA fee goes to fund things that are completely unrelated to TSA or flying. The TSA didn’t even request or need the increase from a few years ago.

    I know you can’t prove a negative, but how many hijackings, bombings or airside shootings have happened since 9/11? They may not be perfect, but so far the TSA has been good enough.

  4. @Tom – the question is not how many hijackings, bombings etc have occurred, but how many has the TSA prevented by its screening practices? It should not be impossible to estimate that number, but I haven’t heard the TSA braying about how successful they are. Which makes me think that it’s not their screening that’s prevented incidents from occurring, but rather other factors (e.g., intelligence agencies doing a reasonably good job of monitoring groups that are likely to pose these sorts of threats; lack of interest in this sort of thing in light of the fact that driving down a sidewalk full of pedestrians is much easier than building a bomb; etc)

  5. @Tom: I have a bottle of elephant repellant on my desk at work. People ask me about it. I ask them, “Well, have you seen any elephants in the office?” “No.” “Well, it’s obvious that it’s working then, isn’t it!” This is the same logic people use to justify the TSA’s existence.

    The TSA hasn’t stopped a single terrorist. BUT that’s not what they were created to do.

    The TSA’s original misson was ‘to reassure the flying public.’ In that, they’re failing miserably. I’m more afraid of the TSA than a possible terrorist incident. Just the idiotic laptop ban shows that the TSA is more of a threat to aviation than terrorists. Lithium battery fires CANNOT be addressed if they’re in the cargo hold. BUT they can be addressed in the cabin.

    The 3 main security improvements which happened because of 9/11 which will prevent another 9/11-style attack (none have anything to do with TSA):
    1) Cockpit doors became hardened
    2) The public became aware of the situation and now realizes that sitting passively is the wrong approach.
    3) Intelligence agencies and law enforcement have finally started (just barely started) to work together.

    Until they get rid of the rent-a-cops and bogus machines, we’ll never have true security.

  6. I’d want to know exactly how many tests were conducted that allowed them to arrive at ~80%. I couldn’t watch the video with sound on so maybe it was covered there, but I have a feeling the TSA and DHS aren’t above conducting, say, 3 tests and only failing two of them and touting that they have only a 66% failure rate. That would be another improvement over their recent 80%.

  7. Better tech will not help.
    The people they employ are the problem.
    If you really want to have effective airport security then you have to profile

  8. US airport security is a third world experience, pretty much every time with only a few exceptions. Just awful in a modern country.

  9. Ben,

    It is a very bad karma incurred by BBC, Bush, Blair and Cheney, who started all this. People have lost items due to this checking. People have suffered severe discrimination, total embarrassment, tons of stress.

    To see these checks failing so badly, it just reminds me when American products failed so badly and then the imports came. This is American technology and American ingenuity, and they are failing.

    The passengers get hurt.

    I certainly would like to hear a balance argument from the TSA side, how is the TSA helping. It could help us understand better, so when we face all the inconveniences, at least we’d know something positive. Now its all negative and this news just makes it worse.

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