July 16, 2011

Flying the “friendly” skies?

One of the things that’s cool about babysitting Seth’s email and Hard Astarboard for the moment is the access I have to “the boss’” daily emails at his various addresses, including one of his professional ones (where he receives stuff pertaining to his professional milieu). I get to read more in-depth articles on various issues that are hardly covered in the media, but also find articles and other items of interest that are specifically pointed out at certain on-line publications, such as this one that has published an article from, of all newspapers, The Tennessean.

Since one of Seth’s largest concerns here and elsewhere is Security with, in large part, emphasis on Homeland Security and one of his pet peeves has long been the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), here’s this one:

Thousands of airport security breaches raise alarms

More than 25,000 security breaches — an average of seven per day — have occurred at U.S. airports since November 2001, according to newly released Department of Homeland Security documents.

More than 14,000 were people entering “limited-access” areas by going through airport doors or passageways without permission, or unauthorized people going from airport buildings to planes, according to the documents to be presented at a House subcommittee hearing today.

The documents, obtained in advance by USA TODAY, don’t provide details about the security breaches or whether any could have led to potential attacks on planes or passengers.

The total number of infractions is small when compared with the large volume of traffic at the 450 major airports in the U.S., which have served more than 5.5 billion fliers since 2001. But critics say there is still reason to worry.

“It’s clear the airports are not secure,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairman of the House Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations. “For all the money, time and persistence we have thrown at airport security, it’s a real mess.”

Clear/ not clear/ whatever: that many flaws leave plenty of room for one or more of their number to allow one or more incidents which, given that we’re talking airplanes (we need only look back to September 11, 2001 to see how much tragedy can be brought about by unsecured airplanes, even one such plane), which contain not only enough aviation fuel to make them into WMDs, but scores of vulnerable innocent human lives in the form of passengers, as well.

You have to ask, “What are these TSA people and DHS doing with their working hours and our tax dollars, exactly? Playing “tiddly winks”?

Damage Control

Transportation Security Administration spokesman Nicholas Kimball said the breaches represent a tiny fraction of 1 percent of the air travelers who used U.S. airports in the past decade. The term “breach” is broadly defined and can mean accidental violations that pose no real danger to the public, he said.

“Many of these instances were thwarted or discovered in the act,” Kimball said. “These events were reported, investigated and remedied. … We have taken extensive steps to increase the safety of the traveling public, and that is why airports today are safer than ever before.”


Security consultant Raffi Ron will testify today that the TSA has spent billions of dollars to screen passengers and bags and relegated other aspects of security “to the back seat,” according to written testimony submitted to the House subcommittee.

“As it stands today, the vast majority of commercial airports in this country … do not have the capabilities to detect and prevent an intruder from entering the air side of the airport through the fence or an adjacent waterfront,” said Ron, a former security director at Tel Aviv Ben-Gurion International Airport.

The House subcommittee says it does not have a breakdown by year when the security breaches occurred, but former Federal Aviation Administration Security Director Billie Vincent says 25,000 security breaches indicates a problem.

“We’re open to penetration if someone decides to penetrate,” he said.

The Rest Of The Story

In 2006, tests by the TSA showed that security screeners at Los Angeles International Airport and Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport failed to find fake bombs hidden on undercover agents posing as passengers in more than 60 percent of tests, according to a classified report obtained by USA TODAY.

In 2003, five undercover Department of Homeland Security agents posing as passengers carried weapons undetected through several security checkpoints at Boston’s Logan International Airport.

Documents to be introduced at today’s subcommittee hearing also show:

6,000 security breaches in which Transportation Security Administration screeners failed to screen, or improperly screened, a passenger or a passenger’s carry-on items.

2,616 security breaches involving an individual gaining unauthorized access to the “sterile area” at screening checkpoints or an exit lane without submitting to all screening procedures and inspections.

1,026 incidents when someone gained unauthorized access to a sterile area but was “contained” or “constantly monitored” by airport or security personnel until apprehended.

1,318 incidents in which someone gained unauthorized access from airport perimeters to aircraft operations or security identification display areas and was under constant surveillance until apprehended.

Vincent, who praises the TSA for compiling security-breach numbers, says that very few perimeters at airports worldwide are secure.

Chaffetz has no praise for TSA.

“It’s absolutely stunning that the vulnerabilities are so wide,” Chaffetz said. “There’s not much to suggest that airports are more secure than years ago. We’ve just been lucky.”

The article is here.

by @ 8:48 am. Filed under Homeland Security, TSA Concerns
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4 Responses to “Flying the “friendly” skies?”

  1. The Gray Monk Says:

    My experience of the “security” at US airports - and I have to say at most UK airports - shows that the whole is little more than a farce. I routinely get stopped and searched in the UK because i don’t fit the ‘profile’ of the majority of terrorists and can therefore be molested to ‘prove’ they aren’t ‘profiling’ anyone…

    In Cincinnatti I experienced the ridiculous system of making me claim my bag, then put it and myself through a security screen, then hand it back in to be collected at the entrance “in case I had taken the opportunity to place or remove a weapon from it.” To add insult to injury they ‘lost’ it between the security check and the entrance/exit from the airport. It took them three hours to trace it and find it. I have had similar experiences on other trips to the US and frankly I’m tired of being treated like an illegal alien, would be terrorist or criminal.

    As for the attitude one encounters at the immigration counters on arrival in the US … I asked the last Officer if they really thought that someone working for the British Government - clearly stated in my passport and my visa - would jeopardise their employment by entering into illegal employment in the US, or would wish to take up illegal residence. I ended up having a face to face with his supervisor who was even more obnoxious and only backed down when I demanded to have the British Consulate called. At that point my luggage was produced and unpacked - revealing my uniform and rank … Sudden change of attitude, but still no apology.

    There are many far more sensible ways of securing airports than to employ lot’s of half trained ignoramuses to operate a system of equally half baked procedures dreamed up for political point scoring and having nothing to do with actually making anything more secure.

    My brother has a metal hip and always has enormous trouble with these morons, another friend has a colostomy and is regularly molested, strip searched and humiliated at US airports. Frankly I am amazed that the descendents of the people who wrote probably the greatest Constitution ever put on paper, accept this at all.

  2. Mrs Wolf Says:

    Gray Monk

    Frankly I am amazed that the descendents of the people who wrote probably the greatest Constitution ever put on paper, accept this at all.

    The problem there is that the people serving in our government today don’t, as the Constitution dictates they should, allow the people much of a voice in the way things are done.

    Seth, who is virtually a security expert and who has long earned his living in the field, has nothing complimentary whatsoever to say about U.S. airport security nor about our Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as it has been run since its inception. He claimed not long ago that it’s been at its worst under Napolitano, whom he said is about as qualified to run a security agency as he is to run a manicurists’ shop.

    You are completely accurate in your assessment re; their using “half baked measures dreamed up for political point scoring”: think elaborate, taxpayer financed placebos.

  3. The Gray Monk Says:

    There is a remedy - rope is freely available and many lamp posts could be decorated until the message sinks in …

  4. Mrs Wolf Says:

    Gray Monk

    LOL! That’s exactly what Seth would say. In fact, he has, more than once… :-)