“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”
The TSA has been tasked with a simple yet fundamental mission: keep American airports safe. Yesterday it proved that billions of dollars and a decade and a half later, it still cannot even do that well.
It was 6am in Jet Blue’s Terminal 5. Passengers were arriving for Jet Blue’s bank of early departures and apparently the TSA was either understaffed or a group of agents decided to take a donut break during the morning rush.
According to security footage, 11 passengers walked through an unmanned metal detector. Three set the metal detector off. No one stopped them or searched them. Baggage was allegedly screened, but there is no indication if a TSA agent was actually looking at the screen as items passed by.
Here’s why I am doubtful: if an agent had been sitting behind the screen, don’t you think s/he would have noticed that her colleagues were not there directing people though the body scanner or metal detector? And don’t you think that if this had been noticed, everything would have been stopped?
The Scandal is in the Cover-up
Our story does not end here. The TSA soon realized that 11 passengers had proceeded through without proper screening. This is not the first time something like this has happened. When it does, there are specific protocols in place that including notifying Port Authority Police so it can comb the terminal looking for the passengers.
But the TSA decided that instead of notifying law enforcement, it would search itself for the passengers (hopefully not leaving security checkpoints unmanned while doing so…). Somehow the TSA ascertained the passengers were on California flights. But the TSA could not find them.
Only then did TSA notify the Port Authority Police. Two hours had passed. The police quickly executed a search using surveillance photos but the unscreened passengers had likely already boarded a plane and were on their way.
Not surprisingly, TSA is digging in and refusing to concede fault. It is “confident” that the security breach represented “no threat to the aviation transportation system” and added–
TSA works with a network of security layers both seen and unseen. Once our review is complete, TSA will discipline and retrain the employees as appropriate.
Fake News from the TSA…
We all mistakes, but some mistakes are unforgivable. TSA cannot be given second chance after second chances for failing to fulfill its vital and fundamental role to make sure that passengers boarding airplanes have been screened. Addressing this will take more than “retraining”.
(top photo courtesy of Doug Letterman / FLICKR)