Screeners At LAX Missed 75 Percent Of Fake Bombs
POLL: Are You Surprised That Screeners At LAX Missed 75 Percent Of Fake Explosives?
(CBS) LOS ANGELES Transportation Security Administration screeners at LAX failed to notice 75 percent of fake bombs and explosives that passed through the airport during unannounced drills.
By comparison, screeners at San Francisco International missed 20 percent of the would-be bombs and, at Chicago's O'Hare International, 60 percent of the fake explosives were unnoticed, according to USA Today, citing a classified memo.
TSA officials would not confirm or deny details of the report, but defended the screeners, saying the tests were done two years ago and designed to fool security personnel. Whenever the so-called pass rate gets too high, the TSA revise the tests to make them more difficult, using different devices, the TSA's local spokesman, Nico Melendez, told the Los Angeles Times.
"People have the misconception that these are like sticks of dynamite," he said. "These are more like caps on a pen . . . a piece of metal with a wire in it."
"It takes real skill to look and find that," he said. "This is an extreme effort on our part to keep our people up to date on the threats and how to thwart those threats."
The TSA does about 20,000 tests a week nationwide, meaning each of its 43,000 employees, including 2,000 at LAX, get tested about every two weeks, Melendez told the newspaper.
Based on the LAX test results from two years ago, Melendez said the amount of training screeners get increased from three to four hours per week, with a focus on detecting homemade bombs.
Screeners who consistently do poorly on tests are removed from duty and put into remedial training until their ability to spot possible threats improve. Repeat trips to retraining sessions can go on their record and is considered during their annual recertification process, The Times reported.
Airport officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the report did not alarm them.
"We understand how the TSA's aggressive and increasingly difficult testing program identifies vulnerable areas and results in a safer aviation system," one official told the newspaper.
Dave Stone, the former federal security director at LAX and one-time head of the TSA, told The Times that LAX is vulnerable because of its size. Aside from passengers, screeners check more than 150,000 pieces of baggage daily, by far the most in the nation.
"The testing program should be designed to break the system," Stone said. "I spent a lot of time trying to have testing scenarios that exploit the vulnerability and gaps that we had at the passenger checkpoint. So therefore you would have failure rates that were relatively high."
Jack Keady, a Playa del Rey-based aviation consultant, questioned the TSA's training method.
"If you make anything innocuous-looking enough, you can usually get by," Keady said. "Because the only screening method they have is looking through the TV screen."
He suggested that random searches may be one of the best ways to catch terrorists.
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