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Faulty Airport Security

Air travelers know that additional time is needed to pass through the post-September 11th security. Especially after the liquid bomb scare of last summer, additional restrictions were imposed by the TSA, including the banning of shampoos and bottles of water and limiting the size of containers of liquids, gels and aerosols to 3 ounces. On my flight to DC yesterday, I had a nearly flattened, all but empty tube of toothpaste confiscated. Still, a GAO report issued today reveals that investigators were able to bring explosive and IED components (liquid explosives, liquid incendiary components and detonators) through security.

The report, obtained exclusively by CBS News, details how GAO investigators conducted covert tests at 19 airports earlier this year to test the vulnerabilities of the passenger screening process. The investigators succeeded in passing through TSA checkpoints undetected with components for making improvised explosive devices (IED) and improvised incendiary devices (IID). "Our tests clearly demonstrate that a terrorist group, using publicly available information and a few resources, could cause severe damage to an airplane and threaten the safety of passengers," the report states.

Aside from the minor inconvience of losing my toothpaste, my concern is that we still haven't gotten airport security right. The GAO invesitgation concluded that a terrorist group, using publicly available information and resources, could cause severe damage to an airplane and threaten the safety of passengers by bringing IED and explosive components through security checkpoints. But the challenge remains how to avoid significant delays for passengers while balancing security. We may be seeing a return to stricter carry-on luggage policies.

As stated by the CBS News security analyst, Paul Kurtz, "If you start to break up all the components over several different people, and you bring them in in different ways, on your person, in your carry-on luggage, how is a TSA screener supposed to put all those pieces together?"

While most hotels offers guests complimentary TSA-compliant toothpaste, we continue to face serious airport security issues. If GAO investigators can circumvent the safeguards, there is no reason to believe that terrorists cannot do the same.

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