The Department of Homeland Security on Monday reassigned the acting director of the Transportation Security Administration and ordered the agency to revise its security procedures after screeners at airport checkpoints failed to detect weapons and other prohibited items 95 percent of the time in a covert test.
… In the investigation, undercover agents were able to get prohibited items through security checkpoints in 67 of 70 instances, according to ABC News, which first reported the findings.
I’m not a terrorist, but if I were, I’m pretty sure I’d have no problem sneaking prohibited items through airport security. In fact, no sneaking required. Twice, I’ve inadvertently passed bottles of water through security—once in the outer mesh pocket of my backpack, and once in my back pocket. On multiple occasions I’ve forgotten to take my toiletries out of my carry-on luggage before scanning. And once, I flew round trip between Seattle and Philadelphia only to realize after the fact that I’d left a 10-inch serrated knife in the bottom of my backpack.
The truth is, there is nothing that TSA has done at the security checkpoint since 9/11 that would have prevented another 9/11, because that was achieved entirely by requiring reinforced cockpit doors. That was the weak point in the system—a secure cockpit door combined with the memory of 9/11 is all that is needed to prevent a similar tragedy. (On the other hand, a locked cockpit door apparently played a crucial role in enabling the suicidal crash of Germanwings Flight 9525, so there’s that.)
What would I do to improve the system? Drop the ban on liquids and gels, and go back to simple metal detectors. One good bomb-sniffing dog would be a helluva lot more effective than a dozen TSA agents ogling at porno-scanners.
Commercial air travel is by far the safest form of transportation. TSA’s security theater mostly just succeeds in making it less comfortable and convenient.