Management

DHS watchdog smuggled fake bombs past TSA screeners

The acting head of the Transportation Security Administration has been reassigned in the wake of an inspector general report that found the agency failed to find fake explosives hidden on undercover agents.

The inspector general at DHS was able to get banned items – including fake explosives - through the screening process 67 out of 70 times it conducted the tests, according to officials familiar with the report. The details were first reported on by ABC News.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement June 1 that acting administrator Melvin Carraway will be reassigned to serve in the Office of State and Local Law Enforcement at DHS headquarters, while acting deputy director Mark Hatfield will serve as the acting administrator for the time being.

President Obama has nominated Coast Guard Vice Admiral Pete Neffenger to be the next head of TSA, and Johnson urged the Senate to confirm him to the post.

Johnson said the results of the IG report – which he would not comment on specifically – are just part of a larger multi-layered security approach to protect passengers.

"The numbers in these reports never look good out of context, but they are a critical element in the continual evolution of our aviation security. We take these findings very seriously in our continued effort to test, measure and enhance our capabilities and techniques as threats evolve," Johnson said.

Johnson also took a number of other corrective actions, including:

  • Directing TSA leadership to immediately revise its standard operating procedures to address the vulnerabilities identified in the IG report and for TSA to brief the Federal Security Directors at every airport across the country.
  • Asking the IG and TSA to conduct continued random covert testing to assess the effectiveness of airport security and to continue to find ways to improve its processes.
  • Mandating TSA to conduct training for all its transportation security officers across the country, and intensive training for all supervisory personnel to address the issues in the IG report.
  • Reviewing and re-testing all of the screening equipment currently in use at airports across the country.

"As a related matter, I personally intend to meet with senior executives of the contractors involved in the development of the equipment at issue to communicate to them the importance of their assistance in our efforts to investigate and remedy the deficiencies highlighted by the Inspector General," Johnson said.

He said he is also appointing a team of TSA and DHS senior leaders to oversee and implement all of the reforms, and will report to him on a bi-weekly basis.

"I continue to have confidence in the TSA workforce. Last fiscal year TSA screened a record number of passengers at airports in the United States, and, at the same time, seized a record number of prohibited items. TSA and the Inspector General are constantly testing and adapting the systems we have in place as part of our commitment to aviation security," Johnson said.

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