A story Monday revealed that the TSA has been underreporting the number of security breaches at airports, concealing nearly half of the events from top management. U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) had demanded an explanation last year after a number of breaches at Newark Liberty Airport (EWR) were reported in the New Jersey Star-Ledger. The TSA redacted a significant portion of the official report, claiming that revealing the full extent of the security breaches would compromise security.
TSA has continually evaded Congressional oversight. As this story was released, the TSA was embroiled in a Congressional inquiry concerning its attempt to conceal nearly $200 million in unused testing systems from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.
Aside from squandering taxpayer money on unneeded equipment, the TSA attempted to mislead Congress by denying that this equipment existed. A whistleblower revealed that the TSA was planning to dispose of the equipment in an effort to destroy the evidence but that it was discovered before the plan could be executed. A House Oversight Committee report stated:
TSA willfully delayed Congressional oversight of the agency’s Transportation Logistics Center twice in a failed attempt to hide the disposal of approximately 1,300 pieces of screening equipment from its warehouses in Dallas, Texas, before the arrival of Congressional staff.
After news of the CIA underwear bomb plot was released earlier this month, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano hastily defended the TSA scanners, saying that there was a “high likelihood’’ the bomber would have been stopped. Meanwhile Senator Diane Feinstein, when asked by Fox News whether the scanners would have detected the underwear said, “candidly, no.”
Recently, the TSA again showed it’s adept at obfuscation when an engineer blogger demonstrated that items could be carried through both types of scanners undetected. Instead of denying that the scanners could be so easily breached, the TSA evaded the question and issued a tepid assertion that the $268 million scanner fleet works most of the time and that the scanners aren’t “the end all, be all” of checkpoint security.
As coverage of that story raged, the TSA attempted to strong-arm Fort Lauderdale airport into denying that tapes of an earlier confrontation with the engineer existed. Furthermore, if those tapes were discovered, the TSA urged that they be withheld on grounds of being SSI (sensitive security information).
In November 2011, the TSA responded to an investigation by WSBTV showing that security breaches were rampant at Atlanta Hartsfield Airport (ATL). The TSA denied that there were any security violations and dismissed the charges.
In April 2012 an internal TSA memo confirmed that there was a backlog in airport worker clearances and that the TSA has given airport employers “interim regulatory relief,” meaning it’s allowing them to hire people without completed background checks. A follow-up investigation by the station in May 2012 provided photographs confirming that ATL security remains porous.
In December of 2011, three elderly women were strip-searched at JFK Airport in New York. The TSA flatly denied that these incidents occurred, further incensing one of the victims, Lenore Zimmerman. Later in December, the agency issued a quasi-apology to Mrs. Zimmerman — only for manhandling her back brace, not for removing her clothes — and in January was finally forced to admit that its agents had indeed strip-searched two of the women, though it continued to deny strip-searching the third.
In 2008, the TSA lied about an incident in Orlando, claiming it had nabbed a man carrying explosives. In fact, as a GAO report found, the man was not carrying explosives, yet the TSA was still trumpeting its supposed catch as late as 2010.
All of these incidents are only the tip of the iceberg, as TSA employees have been charged with everything from identity fraud to child pornography to theft to rape.
Truthfulness is a quality in short supply in the nation’s capital, yet the TSA has managed to distinguish itself as one of the most accomplished liars among a world-class cast of contenders.
(Photo: Flickr Creative Commons: Camera Obscurist/David Greenwald)