ABC NEWS –A 2007 government audit leaked to USA Today revealed that undercover agents were successful slipping simulated explosives and bomb parts through Los Angeles’s LAX airport in 50 out of 70 attempts, and at Chicago’s O’Hare airport agents made 75 attempts and succeeded in getting through undetected 45 times.
Experts tell ABC News that every year since the September 11 terror attacks, federal agencies have conducted random, covert “red team tests,” where undercover agents try to see just how much they can get past security checks at major U.S. airports. And while the Department of Homeland Security closely guards the results as classified, those that have leaked in media reports have been shocking.
Despite the results, there is no sign that the numbers have changed as the screeners have been tested year after year, former Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Clark Kent Ervin told ABC News.
“Those reports were classified but it’s sufficing to say that reports, both classified and unclassified, are concerning. Too often guns and knives and fake explosives get through the checkpoint,” Ervin said. “And what is particularly concerning is that nine times out of 10 the checkpoint is the most critical layer of aviation security.”
Ervin said a combination of factors is likely to blame for the persistent failures on the part of screeners. Low pay, poor training, and the monotony involved in watching bags pass through x-ray machines are a recipe for trouble, Ervin said.
“We’ve had a series of reports actually going back several years from the inspector general, from the General Accounting Office, and our own TSA Office of Inspection,
where they do, as you describe, covert testing,” Pistole acknowledged to George Stephanopoulos last month during an interview on Good Morning America. “And unfortunately, [undercover testers] have been very successful over the years. And one of the findings is that we have not been thorough enough. And the concern obviously is, if that’s an Abdulmutallab — a Christmas Day bomber — who is doing it rather than an undercover agent, then that can have catastrophic results.”
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