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Transportation Privacy Security United States

US Airport Screeners Missed 95% of Weapons, Explosives In Undercover Tests 357

An anonymous reader writes: An internal investigation by the TSA found that 95% of agents testing airport checkpoints were able to bring weapons through. In one case, an alarm sounded, but during the pat down, the screener failed to detect a fake plastic explosive taped to the undercover agent's back. ABC reports: "Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson was apparently so frustrated by the findings he sought a detailed briefing on them last week at TSA headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, according to sources. U.S. officials insisted changes have already been made at airports to address vulnerabilities identified by the latest tests. 'Upon learning the initial findings of the Office of Inspector General's report, Secretary Johnson immediately directed TSA to implement a series of actions, several of which are now in place, to address the issues raised in the report,' the DHS said in a written statement to ABC News."
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US Airport Screeners Missed 95% of Weapons, Explosives In Undercover Tests

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  • Security theatre. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shaman ( 1148 ) <shaman&kos,net> on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @08:16AM (#49821095) Homepage

    Sometimes I think the governments are simply trying to spend themselves into the kind of debt that breaks the banking system. But that doesn't seem to be happening.

    • Re:Security theatre. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @08:36AM (#49821183)
      If they would stop testing it, then it would be better security theater. For example, when I went to the theater over the weekend to see a movie, the theater people didn't notice I had a small pocket knife in my pocket. This is exactly how the security theater at airports work. They don't notice either. Several trips recently I forgot to take my 1 quart baggie of liquids (small hairspray, small shampoo, etc.) out of my carry on. Did they notice, despite their warning signs? Nope. My wife doesn't travel much and she went through the scanner with stuff in her pocket. The signs say you can't do that. Do they notice or care? Nope. It is theater. Theater doesn't have to catch stuff, it just has to make dummies feel safer and make other dummies think twice before bringing weapons and explosives on board.
      • Re:Security theatre. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by boristdog ( 133725 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @09:31AM (#49821535)

        Try China. They have x-ray machines and wands at every subway station and, of course, airports. I sent my bags through dozens of times traveling around Beijing, I got 'wanded' dozens more times.

        It was very obvious that almost all of the machines and wands were turned off. Camera in my pocket? Wand doesn't even beep. Dark screens on the x-ray machines, staff not even looking the few times when the screens were actually on, they never stopped or questioned anyone. They obviously didn't care, either.

        I kind of liked their "we don't give a crap" attitude. It was very...China. Made me like the place even more.

        • Re:Security theatre. (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Maxwell ( 13985 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @09:41AM (#49821615) Homepage
          That's only in Beijing and only during times of 'unrest'. Most of the year there is nothing, not even theater, so when they are ordered to dig out the wands, the batteries are dead and no one can remember how they work. Saudi Arabia is the best - do not wake the sleeping guards, it annoys them. Please walk around the detector with your luggage to prevent it from beeping. Thanks.
        • by TheCarp ( 96830 ) <sjc&carpanet,net> on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @10:15AM (#49821865) Homepage

          You miss the real point. Those gaurds are not there to stop a real threat, they are not really even there to make people feel safe. They are there because making people feel safe is an easy way to justify jobs.

          Jobs redistribute wealth which, granted, several countries could use some more mechanisms for, as the concentrations are a bit scary, but in this case, do it without providing any other benefit other than the redistribution.

          However its very popular because its easy to justify and the only people who can point out it doesn't work have to openly admit they took contraband on the train. Basically the same is done here.

          In Boston, the MBTA have a theater troupe which setups up at one station each day and insists on swabbing bags for explosives, but of course, if you don't want to be swabbed, you can just walk out and walk the 15 minutes (if that) to the next station.

          • In Boston, the MBTA have a theater troupe which setups up at one station each day and insists on swabbing bags for explosives, but of course, if you don't want to be swabbed, you can just walk out and walk the 15 minutes (if that) to the next station.

            I ain't lettin' no goddamned mime swab my bag!

        • Re:Security theatre. (Score:5, Informative)

          by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @11:12AM (#49822335)

          I kind of liked their "we don't give a crap" attitude. It was very...China.

          If you look like a Uyghur [wikipedia.org] you will be checked much more thoroughly. The Chinese don't have the same problems with "ethnic profiling" that we do. I am white. My wife is Chinese. My half-breed kids are occasionally mistaken for Uyghurs, and hassled by security personnel. They have learned to always carry a photocopy of their American passport.

        • I have video footage of a mall in Asia where the entrance metal detector is shrieking every time someone walks through it; no one is stopped or even slowed down for several minutes until a grubby looking character is pulled aside, based on suspicion of being a Muslim or something I suppose.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        As a humorous counter situation we rode an Amtrak one way, and flew back. We had a near empty jar of peanut butter and a bag of bread with us.

        It was made VERY clear to us the 'container' couldn't be larger even if the contents were less than 3oz.

        However we could distribute all of that peanut butter onto sandwiches and bring those.

    • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @09:03AM (#49821341)

      ... breaks the banking system.

      That's adorable. Banks don't break; they just pat themselves on the back with another bonus pass the failures along to us common folk.

      • by thedonger ( 1317951 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @11:01AM (#49822237)

        ... breaks the banking system.

        That's adorable. Banks don't break; they just pat themselves on the back with another bonus pass the failures along to us common folk.

        If the government would just let them fail they might stop getting bonuses.

        As for passing the failure along to "us common folk," that is, for the most part, our own doing because we have bought into the system. To be fair, it was an easy system to buy into, and it was supposedly safe under government scrutiny. Ultimately, we bought the lie; question is, how do we avoid buying into a new one?

    • by prefec2 ( 875483 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @10:12AM (#49821831)

      It is a way to take your money and give it the rich. And if the state is out of money they either "print" it (actually it is much cheaper to transfer a number from the FED to the bank accounts of the government), they raise taxes for you or they cut benefits for the poor. In most cases they take all threee actions.

      • Re:Security theatre. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Required Snark ( 1702878 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @11:27AM (#49822421)
        The real name of the Department of Homeland Security: the Department of Homeland Pork

        The TSA clowns at airports are not government employees, they are private contractors. It the last resort for someone who wants to wear a uniform and have a badge but is too incompetent to be a mall cop. So it's no surprise that they have a 95% failure rate.

        A huge chunk of taxpayer money gets wasted and there is little real world payoff. Make no mistake, the real big bucks go to the upper management, political insiders who grease the wheels for lucrative contracts. Just a division of the military industrial complex.

        Another example: the Air Force just signed the very first contract with Boeing for commercial manned flights to the International Space Station. The Boeing crew vehicle hasn't even flown yet, unlike the SpaceX capsule which is now going through it's manned launch escape testing. Boeing is in bed with the AF, SpaceX isn't. All the AF guys know that they will just slide over to high paying jobs at Boeing when they retire, and there are lots of Congress Critters who get campaign contribution from Boeing, and want to protect defense jobs in their state.

        Saving money? Competition? Innovation? Not even on the table. It's government of, by and for the insiders. And you are paying for it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @08:16AM (#49821101)

    It was about creating another welfare program.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @08:29AM (#49821153) Journal
      It's never 'welfare' if it involves defense spending: the spending doesn't have to actually increase security, or deliver a product that actually works(it's even acceptable to putz along for a decade or two until the project becomes so hopeless that it is quietly killed without ever delivering a product); but so long as it's for 'defense' and involves some sort of visible business, it's not welfare.

      Since this is bullshit, we simply treat it as axiomatically true, which sidesteps what would otherwise be a tedious and difficult matter of 'proof'.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Sure it is. There are an additional quarter of a million people on the government payroll now, being overpaid to work meaningless, make-work jobs that do not produce anything, and in fact hinder useful productivity.

        That's a quarter million likely voters who will of course support DHS, Patriot Act, government security theater, and everything else that gets shoved down our throats, because their job and benefits depend on it.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          The premise that DHS isn't about security is true enough. It's about control. Just to be clear, I think DHS is an abomination and should be abolished.

          So I'd really like to agree with you, but since you're obviously spring loaded to hate the notion of anybody working for the government, and biased to believe that they're all the same, vote the same, believe the same, etc. Stop listening to the corporate shill Tea Partiers and start using reason.

          Reason says that since DHS was created out of a bunch of othe

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Correct on your first comment, it was never about security. But its not about show. It is about compliance. The american government, controlled, by a small cabal of maniacs was led to attack the wrong people. And, you don't want the truth. And most seriously, read up on who and why of Iran/contra, a and Vietnam, b. And who was involved. Amazingly, they are millionaires now, who should have gone to jail for treason.

    • by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @10:12AM (#49821827)

      It was a lot of things to a lot of opportunists, but the main driver in the creation of the TSA was the fear after 9/11. This was an irrational response, since airport security did not "break down" and allow 9/11 to occur - box cutters were allowed on planes because it never occurred to anyone that someone would be able to hijack an airplane with a razor blade.

      On the bright side we have another example of how expensive and incompetent the government is at doing a straightforward task. I'm not saying that the private sector would be more competent, but they sure would be cheaper.

  • by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @08:21AM (#49821115) Journal
    Security theatre is now being asked to be aesthetic andeffective...

    Cheese and rice!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @08:27AM (#49821137)

    All this means is that they failed to find FAKE plastic explosives and the like, not that they wouldn't find real stuff.

    Do a real test!

  • by sycodon ( 149926 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @08:27AM (#49821139)

    But they did manage to grope 8 out of 10 Grandmas and 5 out of 10 toddlers.

  • by GoddersUK ( 1262110 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @08:27AM (#49821141)

    I've seen various comments/analysis on other sites about how unsafe this makes people feel. My response was completely the opposite: security is completely ineffective yet it's quite rare for terrorists to blow up airliners. Conclusion: terrorists don't pose a massive threat to our safety and we can do away with all the infringements of our liberties made in the name of safety from terrorists.

    Although, no doubt, the government will see it as an excuse to make airport security fondle your bollocks for a minimum of 30 seconds; after all, we've got to stop all those terrorists that aren't blowing up planes from blowing up planes!

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @08:40AM (#49821215)

      the government will see it as an excuse to make airport security fondle your bollocks for a minimum of 30 seconds;

      If you train them properly, you can even help reduce the healthcare budget.

    • by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @08:45AM (#49821243) Homepage

      Or will revelations like this lead terrorists to try more often? If there terrorists think that there's a good chance they will be caught, they will spend more time making their plans, and only do something that's truly devastating (like 9-11). However, if it really is so easy to get weapons past security, it makes more sense to spend almost no time at all planning anything, and just do a lot of attempts since it seems like things are quite likely to succeed.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        no terrorist is gonna try to hijack a plane again,
        everyone on the plane will assume the plane would be flown into another building,
        any terrorist dumb enough to try after 9-11 is gonna get to experience mob justice first hand

        • by cdrudge ( 68377 )

          no terrorist is gonna try to hijack a plane again,

          Want to place a bet on that? I'll take the Over.

      • Or will revelations like this lead terrorists to try more often? If there terrorists think that there's a good chance they will be caught, they will spend more time making their plans, and only do something that's truly devastating (like 9-11). However, if it really is so easy to get weapons past security, it makes more sense to spend almost no time at all planning anything, and just do a lot of attempts since it seems like things are quite likely to succeed.

        News releases of this sort certainly could inspire the same sort of spur-of-the-moment attack we saw in Texas at the "Draw the Prophet" exhibit, itself a virtual terrorist-baiting.

        Well organized attacks like 9/11 are apparently not the terrorists' forte, anyway, as there are seemingly an order or two more suicide-type attacks than the well orchestrated variety.

        The thing is, the takeover of an airborne plane now has a minimal chance of being flown into a building, as passengers are aware negotiating some

        • by Zak3056 ( 69287 )

          Does anyone know how much airport security there is for a small private plane or jet at the same airport they frisk your gran?

          None. At all. Typically, they will cheerfully wave you through the door (often offering you fresh baked cookies first, at one of the larger FBOs) to where the aircraft are waiting.

      • by Antique Geekmeister ( 740220 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @09:06AM (#49821357)

        They already knew that TSA screenings are security theater. It takes only a bit of casual observation, from the waiting lounge, to see which security personnel at which airport are competent or most overwhelmed. The 9/11 terrorists and any modern counterparts have opportunities to visit or travel through airports with _real_ security, like Egypt, Arabia, Pakistan, and Israel, and see the trade-offs between cost and security at all of them. There were compelling reasons that the 9/11 attackers chose Boston to fly from: one of the reasons was doubtless the very lax security at Logan Airport.

        Doing a "lot of attempts" winds up getting one attempt noticed and tightening up security at that airport and possibly others, so "do a lot of attempts" breaks down quickly. What a lot of attempts could do is drain the budget of the TSA and of airlines: overwhelming the staff with hundreds or thousands of false positives over a day or a week would cost the TSA and the airlines many millions of dollars, Simply wiping or spraying enough nitrate residues on a an escalator handrail would expose hundreds, even thousands of people in a day to explosive detection and wipe out the resources and budget of many TSA offices.

      • by Ogive17 ( 691899 )
        With cockpit doors being locked now, it seems stupid to do anything to an airplane these days. Sure, you might get a few hundred casulties and the loss of a plane and possible some casulties on the ground.. there are far worse things they could do. Black Friday at a Wal-mart? Sporting events, train stations..

        TSA is smoke and mirrors. 9/11 cannot be replicated.. even if they somehow breached the cockpit doors the crew and passengers will not sit idley by.
        • by AthanasiusKircher ( 1333179 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @11:16AM (#49822355)

          Sure, you might get a few hundred casulties and the loss of a plane and possible some casulties on the ground.. there are far worse things they could do. Black Friday at a Wal-mart? Sporting events, train stations..

          Yes, this is the obvious thing. I recall after 9/11 when people were actually freaked out by such possibilities. I had a couple friends who didn't even want to go to shopping malls for a few months, because there was fear that any large congregation of people could be a target.

          And then what happened?? Nothing.

          And people stopped worrying about all those other possibilities....

          Also, a fun stat on that "sure you might get a few hundred casualties" with a loss of a plane. Keep in mind that TSA is not free either. And I'm not just talking about cost or special scanners (whether they have medical consequences or not) or groping.

          I'm talking about how everyone was saddened after 9/11 about how much of a waste it was -- that so many people had "lost their lives" in their prime.

          Well, guess what? Run the math on the 600,000,000 passengers who board flights in the U.S. every year or so. For every minute/person the TSA wastes, that equates to roughly 1000 years of people's lifespans wasted cumulatively.

          If the TSA wastes 5 minutes on average for people standing in line and going through extra security crap, that's 5000 years of lifespans "lost" every year when people could be doing something else, being productive in their own lives. (And that doesn't even take into account how much time is wasted because people arrive early at airports just in case of a long security delay.)

          This may sound like a silly analysis, but it's time we're all forced to give out of our lives for no apparent reason just to board a plane.

          One could thus argue that the TSA is already wasting "hundreds of lives" every year, even if a plane doesn't go down... we don't need the terrorists to do it.

      • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

        The trouble if you are OBL type is that people are only so dumb. You can convience them to die for the cause but far fewer want to volunteer for a job that most like will result in their being captured not killed and living out there days being force fed at camp X-Ray.

        IMHO the real vulnerability is the security line itself and the Boston bombing proves it. You can pack plenty of explosive to cause all kinds of carnage in bag that will plausibly be allowed as a carry on. Pick a busier airport, wait until

    • by pr0t0 ( 216378 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @09:13AM (#49821413)

      According to this poll http://www.harrisinteractive.c... [harrisinteractive.com], about 57% of frequent flyers believe the current TSA procedures are making it safer to fly. The other 43% recognize them for the theatrics that they are.

      Sure, they find their fair share of fake novelty hand grenades and medieval weaponry in checked baggage. They even once saved a plane from the pudding cup my daughter left in her backpack (which naturally earned her a pat-down). But what the TSA was really doing was keeping a major mode of transportation operational for a brief time of uncertainty. As with all things government, the project's scope began to creep and pockets got lined while we stood in a line to have our pockets felt by a creep.

      57% think the TSA is money well spent. That is the metric by which the TSA measures itself.

      • by heypete ( 60671 ) <pete@heypete.com> on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @10:07AM (#49821791) Homepage

        They even once saved a plane from the pudding cup my daughter left in her backpack (which naturally earned her a pat-down).

        My wife, then-infant daughter, and I had an interesting experience flying in the US: we often traveled with pre-packaged, ready-to-use UHT-sterilized bottles of formula just in case (a) my wife's milk production was insufficient at that moment and (b) we didn't have sufficient time or access to things like boiling water needed to make powdered formula. Since opening the sealed bottles defeats the point of UHT sterilization and starts the ~2 hour countdown after which the formula must be discarded, we asked them not to open the bottles.

        Typically this was no problem: they did some swab tests, x-rayed the bottles, and concluded that they were (correctly) harmless. Additionally, they said that not opening the bottles meant that either my wife or I needed to get a pat-down but they let us choose who got the touchy-feely treatment. Obviously, any bad guys would have the one without concealed contraband get the search, thus defeating the purpose of the search.

        At least that was better than Newark: the security screeners said they needed to do the swabbing and other tests before letting us proceed. However, the checkpoint was quite busy at the moment so they just had us stand around next to a table holding the bottles, my laptop, etc. for 10 minutes or so, then let us collect all the stuff and go. At no time were any of the tests they mentioned actually done.

    • by SumDog ( 466607 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @09:34AM (#49821557) Homepage Journal

      Terrorism...yea... that thing.

      Look carefully at the "underwear bomber." He was let onto the plan by an still unidentified Indian man. There are many who believe this was an FBI op. Shoe-bomber? Same shady situation. Even going back to the Pan-Am bombing, the CIA gave that man the explosives. They were suppose to give him non-functioning explosives. They actively sought to radicalize someone; making a criminal out of someone who wouldn't have been on their own. This is the definition of entrapment.

      EVERY SINGLE AIRPORT related "attack" was directly caused by the US. Every security precaution is "security theatre." Those rape-a-scanners? Keep in mind that people who have repeated CAT scans for medical purposes have a higher risk for cancer. The effects build over time for continual exposure. In 20 years, we're gong to see frequent flyers with cancers directly related to body scanners.

      The American media is not free. We live in a propaganda state. Oh brave new world, with such people in it.

  • by houghi ( 78078 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @08:32AM (#49821161)

    On a positive note: in 5% of the times it worked all the time.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    List the vulnerabilities at a company that fails penetration tests, watch the IT department fill out the checklist saying "we fixed that", lather, rinse, repeat.

    I've been in the IT group that was carefully banned from securing things because the architect and the CTO just found it a lot easier to be able to do anything they wanted, to any system they wanted, any time they wanted, without a paper trail or traceable history. It took me a while to figure out it was deliberate: then I found where the architect

  • And yet (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    nothing happened ...

  • This has been known for years. Women in Aerospace [womeninaerospace.org] held a forum on this topic on an easy to remember date -- September 10, 2007. Before I walked in to the event, I knew that when TSA tested its own "security" by trying to smuggle guns through, the guns got through over 90% of the time. That day I also learned about a college student who had smuggled high explosives onto planes just to show he could. The people there that day were furious at this farce.

    Some Women in Aerospace members have significant po

    • by Bob the Super Hamste ( 1152367 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @09:10AM (#49821387) Homepage
      Easy, because too many people in the general population thing it is a good thing that they are "At least trying to do something", and "What ever it takes to keep us safe". There is also a running theme where if a politician speak out about these things they get questioned in the media about how would they feel if a terror attack happened and it is implied that the blame would be placed on them. Love Rand Paul or hate him at least he has had the spine to provide a retort to these kind of accusations when they were leveled at him after his actions on Sunday over the PATRIOT act.

      The solution is to make it so that the politicians know that this is unacceptable. This can be done by contacting them by mail, e-mail, and phone, writing letters to the editor, talking to their campaign people and letting them know when they are out glad handing for votes, but all of this requires effort. Also even if the majority of people don't hold the position most are still apathetic so all that is needed is to give the impression that the majority (a very vocal minority) is against this and things will change, probably slower than we want. It helps if a few get bounced out of office in very public ways like getting primaried out in a safe seat. This requires more effort as one has to get enough people to show up a a prescient level to get a candidate on the ballot, and then get enough people out in the primary to get rid of the incumbent. The TEA Party did this with a number of republicans so it could be done again, but should be done in both parties so they both get the picture.
  • by jfdavis668 ( 1414919 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @08:37AM (#49821195)
    In their defense, they did find 100% of the water bottles being smuggled through. At least we are protected from that threat.
  • by antiperimetaparalogo ( 4091871 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @08:38AM (#49821199)
    Long time ago i served as a conscript in the Greek Special Forces: part of our training was to do infiltration inside (Greek) "regular" forces' bases - that was for us (S.F.) a training in missions we may do in a real war situation AND a test for the bases' security (on behalf of the regular army/navy/air force command)... while we (S.F.) almost always succeed (so, "regular" forces "failed"), i can guarantee the good status of Greek "regular" forces' base security.

    My point is that the methods (and level of "fake enemy") on those "friendly" security checks are very different from what most people (most "bad guys" included) will ever use.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      The difference in your example compared to the TSA is that even the Greek regular were professionals taking reasonable steps with proper training while the TSA has minimal training on ineffective measures of people who basically would otherwise likely be unemployable. It doesn't take a rocket surgeon to outsmart a TSA agent as people regularly get stuff past them that should easily have been caught by the old methods of screening and more so by the current ones. There was a story a while back about the numb
      • The difference in your example compared to the TSA is that even the Greek regular were professionals taking reasonable steps with proper training while the TSA has minimal training on ineffective measures of people who basically would otherwise likely be unemployable.

        I had to make it more clear (my fault): most people in the Greek military, both in my S.F. unit AND the "regular" forces, was and still are conscripts - the Greek military is a conscript based (all able men must serve), and actually my S.F. unit's professionals to conscripts ratio was higher than that of the regular forces'... so, in that analogy (TSA as Greek regular army) things are similar.

        It doesn't take a rocket surgeon to outsmart a TSA agent as people regularly get stuff past them that should easily have been caught by the old methods of screening and more so by the current ones.

        I don't know the level of the TSA agents (i would never tried to outsmart them!), so i can't comment on your first p

    • by bradley13 ( 1118935 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @09:12AM (#49821401) Homepage

      What you're saying is that most criminals are dumb, and that's why security manages to catch them. Smart criminals are unlikely to get caught.

      If we accept that as true, and if we are willing to accept that life is never totally risk free, then all of TSA and Homeland Security could be abolished. Then the rest of the world could also stop complying with the idiotic restrictions (liquids, etc.) initiated by the US.

      Anyway, there is absolutely no evidence that security today is any better than it was pre-9/11. Without the security theater, we would save such huge amounts of time. I still remember fondly being able to show up at the airport 30 minutes before flight departure, show my ticket, walk onto the airplane. That's the way is was, and the way it should be again.

      • What you're saying is that most criminals are dumb, and that's why security manages to catch them. Smart criminals are unlikely to get caught.

        Yes, i am saying that, but not only that ("are dumb"): they are also not so well "trained" in their criminal/terrorist "operations", not so calm, not so "invisible" as they usualy think, plus some other things that a profesional security officer usualy knows well.

        If we accept that as true, and if we are willing to accept that life is never totally risk free, then all of TSA and Homeland Security could be abolished. Then the rest of the world could also stop complying with the idiotic restrictions (liquids, etc.) initiated by the US.

        I must disagree: every "click" more of security is better security, even if that means more inconvenience - i am not a profesional security guy, so i can not decide what is the appropriate level of security(/inconvenience), but i can understand why

  • by Bob the Super Hamste ( 1152367 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @08:41AM (#49821219) Homepage
    Given what I have inadvertently brought through over the years:
    About a dozen 3" 12 gauge shot gun shells (magnum goose loads)
    An almost full box of 20 7.62x54r rifle ammunition
    A 4"lock blade knife with a brass handle (multiple times), A small 2.5" folding knife
    This really doesn't come as a surprise, and I wasn't even trying to sneak the stuff past them. The ammo was in coat pockets the went through the X-ray machine at different times and the pocket knives were just left in my pocket as I went through their metal detector. But every time I bring my camera, a Pentax Spotmatic F with assorted lenses, it is off to the extra screening area for a pat down, explosives check, a game of 20 questions, and for them to dig through my stuff. Also the bulb cable really confuses them and I get accused of bringing a weapon onto a plane as they push the button and the cable extends out the other end a bit
    • A freakin' Spotmatic? Those were awesome cameras with some nice lenses. I had no idea any were out in the wild any more though.
      • They are fairly common if one looks, but does require looking at a real camera shop that carries used non digital equipment and likely also medium format gear. The K1000 is by far more common though and they also seem to have better lens availability if you wanted to go that route. They don't come up for sale as often as they did 10 years ago when everyone was switching to digital and had no collector value. They are built like a tank and do have some good lenses, it is just the lenses I want I can't afford
  • by Anonymous Coward

    It's in the testers' interests to beat the system, and they know what all of the protocols and technologies involved are. Unlike a terrorist, they also don't need to use real munitions, or carry anything that would be practical for the previous or next phase of their plan. The testers also are just devising the hardest tests they can, instead of trying to imitate the methods utilized by the people they're supposed to be training the checkpoints to spot. They're specifically targeting known weaknesses. A

  • by Karmashock ( 2415832 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @08:46AM (#49821245)

    You stop terrorists by first knowing who is getting on the planes in the first place. This is how Israel secures its airports. They know who you are before you even show up at the airport. They have multiple layers of people that are trained to spot suspicious behavior and act upon it.

    The second thing you do is give the plane an ability to defend itself when it is attacked. Let us just assume the terrorists get on the plane with whatever. What is the plane going to do to defend itself. I refer to the passengers, the flight attendants, the pilots, etc. What can they do to shut it down when it happens?

    The funniest thing that has come out of 9/11 is that the government was actually totally useless and that people... just people are far more useful. Because what is actually stopping terrorist attacks is that you cannot take over a plane like they did on 9/11 anymore. What allowed that to happen was that passengers didn't know what the terrorists were going to do. They thought the plane was going to Cuba or something. They didn't know they were going to be murdered en mass to murder thousands of other people. If you tried to do 9/11 today... the passengers would rip the terrorists apart. No government agency required.

    The TSA is at most stopping Richard Reed type attacks where someone just wants to blow the plane up. But you can't fly those planes into anything anymore because the passengers will just kill you.

    Here is my solution:

    1. Require a special ID to use commercial airplanes. The ID would require that you are on a list and they know who you are... transport on the system is not a right. If you're a suspicious person then the system might just say "take a bus". By all means open the system up to due process so if you think you're on a ban list then you can fight that in court. The system might also flag certain people out for more security when they show up at the security gate. So you'd still get to be on the plane but you personally would be going through extra security because the system doesn't trust you.

    2. Give flight attendants and pilots some defense training. That includes possibly giving them weapons. I have no problem for example with the pilot having a gun. If he can fly the plane into a mountain then he can be have a machine gun for all I care. He's fully capable of killing everyone on the plane as well as whomever is on the ground when the plane strikes. So give him a gun. If you want it to be one of those subsonic jobs that don't penetrate very far, that is fine. But lets not pretend the pilot can't kill everyone. He can.

    3. Upgrade the computer security on those planes. You shouldn't be able to control the auto pilot through the entertainment network accessed by wifi. That was fucking pathetic.

    4. The actual gate security can probably go back to what it was before 9/11 with the addition of checking special IDs and subjecting people to additional security if they're on a list. The vast majority of people would have much less to worry about.

    Things that would cause someone to get flagged... non-citizens might be inherently less trustworthy. Various age brackets and genders... if you're an old woman then you're just less likely to be a problem. That sort of thing. Of course this should link to the FBI and the NSA and the CIA so that if any of those groups had an issue with someone, then they could independently flag someone for the TSA.

    My objective here is to keep as many people safe as possible while maintaining the effiency of the transport network. Some people might say "this will lead to profiling and profiling is wrong"... profiling is a basic aspect of criminal investigation and intelligence work. Ever see Silence of the Lambs? It was about an FBI serial killer PROFILER. Profiling is fine so long as it isn't stupid. Profiling on the basis of race for example is stupid especially when that is the only variable. It can BE a variable so long as there is a reason for it. I'm not sure what reason you could use to justify it... but I'm open

    • by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @08:55AM (#49821281) Journal

      It's impossible to stop all terrorists. We're simply reacting to the last attack, because there's no realistic way to stop the next one.

      Profiling might be somewhat useful, but it's doubtful. Disallowing large/serious weapons on a plane is a good thing simply because, without some amplification of strength, the numbers are wildly against any single attacker. Simple security is sufficient.

    • All good ideas. I'm sute implementing them would have stopped precisely zero out of zero terrorist attacks on US planes that actually succeeded since 2001.

      So, since security is lax (like we didn't know already) and there haven't been any successful terrorist attacks on planes in the US since 2001, what precisely would your methods achieve?

      If the answer is saving lives then I contend there are better methods to save lives. Your methods sound expensive. Terrorism isn't a significant threat. If you spend the m

      • What would it achieve? No worse than what we have no with overall superior efficiency of the existing transport network.

        My idea is superior to what we have now. That's all.

        Don't let perfect be the enemy of the good. Something doesn't have to be perfect to be a good idea just because there is another system that is possibly better that NO ONE is going to implement.

        1. The point is to track people and give the TSA some real control over who is even allowed to buy a ticket.

        2. As to pilots flying something into

        • My idea is superior to what we have now. That's all.

          Fair enough. I think it's more expensive though, especially the ID thing would require a Big Government Project (tm).

          1. The point is to track people and give the TSA some real control over who is even allowed to buy a ticket.

          The problem with that is that the TSA seem to be wildly incompetent in all things. It would pretty much require that the TSA is burned to the ground and rebuilt.

          3. Yes it did happen. He pushed the throttle forward on one of the engine

  • Who wants to grope that? (/sarcasm)
  • by schwit1 ( 797399 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @09:21AM (#49821473)
    In billions. Total=$61B
    Departmental Operations 748,024
    Analysis and Operations(A&O) 302,268
    Office of the Inspector General (OIG) 145,457
    U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) 12,764,835
    U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) 5,359,065
    Transportation Security Administration(TSA) 7,305,098
    U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) 9,796,995
    U.S. Secret Service (USSS) 1,895,905
    National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) 2,857,666
    Office of Health Affairs (OHA) 125,767
    Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) 12,496,517
    FEMA: Grant Programs 2,225,469
    U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) 3,259,885
    Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) 259,595
    Science &Technology Directorate (S&T) 1,071,818
    Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) 304,423

    https://www.dhs.gov/sites/defa... [dhs.gov]
  • by gurps_npc ( 621217 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @09:29AM (#49821515) Homepage
    They don't scare the terrorists.

    If a terrorist wants to blow up a plane, they use a Surface to Air Missile from just outside the airport.

    If they want to hijack a plane, it won't work anymore because the doors are heavily locked - any explosive capable of opening the cockpit door will crash the plane.

    The routinely miss liquids - water, suntan lotion, etc. I traveled with someone that packed suntan lotion in a carry on bag and they missed it. They found and took the blade out of his safety razor, but missed the suntan lotion.

    Even their own original studies claim that any benefit is far exceeded by the cost. The basic rule for MOST government agencies is if the cost exceeds $1 million per life saved, don't bother - smoke detectors cost $210,000 per life saved. http://www.econ.ucsb.edu/~tedb/Courses/UCSBpf/readings/interventions.pdf

    But the TSA argues they should be allowed to spend $10 million per life saved - and admit they actually cost $180 million per life saved. https://www.schneier.com/blog/... [schneier.com]

    Their budget should be cut to 1% of what it currently is, that way we will only be spending twice what we spend on other industries to save lives.

  • The illusion of effectiveness was the only real deterrent the TSA had to keeping terrorists from bringing explosives onto planes. Now that the illusion is gone, what's stopping them?

    • The illusion of effectiveness was the only real deterrent the TSA had to keeping terrorists from bringing explosives onto planes. Now that the illusion is gone, what's stopping them?

      I would have thought that the terrorists would have been doing dry runs with disposable assets like (Richard Reid, shoe bomber) and would know exactly how vulnerable the system is. Reids shoes did have real explosives in them but they were (apparently deliberately) configured so as to be inert. There was no threat to the airplane (you don't set off plastic explosives by igniting it with a match).

      This was likely part of a larger scheme to map out the vulnerabilities in the air transit system. You can bet tha

  • by xtal ( 49134 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @09:52AM (#49821689)

    ..which is NOT to detect weapons.

    They're trained to detect common tools, water bottles, and other harmless items to harass people. This performance is what is incentivized and reinforced, so that's what is optimized.

    Security theatre doesn't work. Security that works offends people.

    C'est la vie. Shoes off!

  • so, what if this report is BS and really an attempt to provoke attack by ISIS or other groups, leading to national support for an expanded/resumed military presence in the middle east? nothing stimulates an economy like a good war, right?

    i guess it's a sad statement that the above is not completely, utterly unthinkable... the guys running the show really could be that dumb.
  • Disclaimer: I don't agree with the following, but here are the counter arguments that I think would apply. To an extent described in the article.

    1. Willing suicide bombers are rare. This means that if there is a significant chance they will be caught pre-explosion, they will seek another avenue. So the goal of TSA measures is not to catch 100% of smuggled weapons, it is merely to make airplanes too risky a target. If the bomber/hijacker is caught, the expensive resource is squandered.

    2. These tests are
  • They found the nail clippers I had forgotten to leave at home and made me dispose of them before getting on the plane. So the world became a little safer for everyine on that particular day.
  • by swb ( 14022 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @10:26AM (#49821957)

    From publicized "tests" of the TSA to real world situations where people sneak onto a flight without a ticket, I question whether the TSA process is even really about stopping threats or whether it's really about conditioning people to accept a heavy-handed, intrusive "security" as a normal party of daily life.

  • by erp_consultant ( 2614861 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @11:10AM (#49822315)

    Just as we are discussing the renewal of the Patriot Act. The Patriot Act, just like the TSA, has been absolutely worthless in stopping any terrorist attacks. I knew that the TSA was doing a poor job but a 95% failure rate is laughable. Basically that means that they are only doing 5% better than if there were no security whatsoever.

    I remember back when this whole farce was unfolding and how the government was going on about how we shouldn't trust the airlines and their subcontracted security folks and how Uncle Sam can do it so much better.

    Well, 7 billion a year later this is what we have to show for it. 95% failure rate. Numerous scandals within the TSA. Not a single potential terrorist attack foiled by the TSA. And every single airline passenger is inconvenienced as a result of it.

    Those subcontracted rent-a-cops that the airlines used to hire are looking pretty good right now.

  • by Lucas123 ( 935744 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @11:41AM (#49822539) Homepage
    After my last airport screening, I'm now fairly confident that I don't have colon cancer.
  • by gestalt_n_pepper ( 991155 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @12:09PM (#49822795)

    USA citizens killed by terrorists in 2011? 17 ( http://www.theatlantic.com/int... [theatlantic.com] ). About the same number killed by furniture.

    USA citizens killed by automobiles in 2011? 32,479 ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L... [wikipedia.org] )

    We're coming for you, GM...

  • by StikyPad ( 445176 ) on Tuesday June 02, 2015 @12:39PM (#49823139) Homepage

    Physical security (standing watch) is one of the most monotonous, thankless, and just plain boring jobs. At best you may be have spurts of attentiveness, but the rest of the time you're faking it. Fake badges (as tests) would get through at least 90% of the time, unless you saw someone coming who you knew was likely to test your attentiveness, or it happened to be during a spurt of attentiveness. The toughest physical security is going to be a bouncer, because he knows with 100% certainty that multiple underage patrons are going to try to sneak in on his watch, but even then dozens will, even without a bribe.

    The most unrealistic aspect of first person shooters isn't the shitty AI, it's the AI's hypervigilance and flawless ability to instantly identify a threat on sight.

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