May 19, 2012

TSA, Our Very Own Homeland Security Threat

Yes, keeping up with Seth’s reading, in his absence, in order to try to keep up with Hard Astarboard (and I stress “try”) can be a highly informative activity.

Also in line with the boss’ particular interest in his own profession, Security, there’s some material (though not the more Protection Industry specific, “non-publishable” stuff) on the subject that I spend time reading, and if I believe it is relevant to Seth’s security blogging interests, share it.

One of his greatest pet peeves, as long time readers will know, is the inept sieve of useless bureaucracy known via oxymoron as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).


Top ranking TSA managers are not telling the head office about nearly half of the security breaches at the country’s major airports — including Newark — making it more difficult to spot dangerous weaknesses in the national fight against terrorism, according to a federal report obtained by The Star-Ledger.

But much of the fault may lie with the Transportation Security Administration headquarters itself, which has a poor system for reporting and monitoring breaches, says the report, which is scheduled to be released today by the Inspector General’s Office of the Department of Homeland Security, which includes the TSA.

Let’s not all have cardiac arrest as a result of our amazed shock!

“The agency does not provide the necessary guidance and oversight to insure that all breaches are consistently reported, tracked and corrected. As a result, it does not have a complete understanding of breaches occurring at the Nation’s airports and misses opportunities to strengthen aviation security.” states the report, signed by Anne L. Richards, the Department of Homeland Security’s assistant inspector general.

The report grew out of a February 2011 request by U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) for an investigation into articles by The Star-Ledger about at least half a dozen security breaches at Newark Liberty International Airport in January and February of that year.

While the report focused on breaches occurring at Newark Liberty from January 2010 to May 2011, it says investigators also reviewed security breaches at five other major airports during the same 16-month period, to determine the severity of Newark’s problem as well as deficiencies at other airports and for TSA operations generally. The five other airports were not identified, though Lautenberg had requested investigators also look at John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports.

While the actual number of breaches were blacked out, the redacted report said that only 42 percent of breaches detected in Newark during the survey period were then reported by local managers to the agency’s central Transportation Security Operations Center. The average reporting rate among all six airports surveyed was 53 percent, while the highest rate at any one of them was 88 percent.

Doesn’t that just make you want to make immediate flight reservations?


“A TSA source told The Star-Ledger newspaper there were three more security lapses, but TSA has disputed them,” Lautenberg stated in letter dated Feb. 24, 2011, asking Inspector General Richard Skinner to look into the beaches.

Even before last year’s breaches in Newark, Lautenberg told Skinner, in January 2010 a Rutgers graduate student took advantage of a vacated security post at a checkpoint exit lane to enter a secure area and kiss his girlfriend, shutting the airport for six hours and disrupting air travel around the world.


Investigators found local officials often may not report security problems because of confusion over what the national guidelines from TSA headquarters require.

Ah, yes, your typical “well oiled machine”…

One of the six airports did not report that a passenger had been allowed into a secure area without a valid boarding pass because the local TSA management did not consider it reportable “based on their interpretation of the guidance.”

Well oiled: Supplying KY for airline passengers headed for Bendover, Massachusettes.

Now, now, Mrs Wolf… Actually, I remember Seth telling us that of every U.S. airport he’s passed through, the only one in which he found any professionals working for TSA was Logan International, in Boston.

One possible reason for the under-reporting, the report suggested, is that the definition of a breach varies in internal agency literature.

Yeah, guys, better talk fast…

For example, the report quotes one TSA operations directive, titled “Management of Security Breaches,” as defining a breach as, “any incident involving unauthorized and uncontrolled access by an individual or prohibited item into a sterile area or security area of an airport that is determined by TSA to present an immediate and significant risk to life, safety or the security of the transportation network.”

But a different directive, involving the agency’s Performance and Results Information System, titled, “Reporting Security Incidents via PARIS,” refers only to individuals’ gaining access improperly, not to prohibited items. The result, the report states, was differing interpretations of what constituted a breach among local TSA managers, resulting in inconsistent reporting, with only headquarters to blame.

“At the six airports visited, TSA did not always take action or document their actions to correct security breach vulnerabilities because,” the report states, “the agency did not provide TSA management at the airports with a clear definition or guidance for identifying and reporting security breaches through its reporting systems.”

Sure, sure…

Hat Tip to an email link from Steven Emerson and the Investigative Project on Terrorism.

by @ 11:45 am. Filed under Homeland Security, Security, TSA Concerns
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