Six years after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has major security lapses even in some areas that the agency has supposedly met its goals, according to a Consumer Reports (CR) investigation.
The TSA was created in Nov. 2001 to secure all modes of transportation including at the U.S. 400 commercial airports and all airlines. According to the report, the agency still falls short in 7 out of 24, or almost one-third of critical performance benchmarks set for itself.
One of the most visible elements of new security effort post 9/11 was the requirement that reinforced doors be installed. By 2002, the FAA reported that all major U.S. airlines had complied. CR searched NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System and found 51 incidents since April 2002 in which flight crews reported problems with the hardened doors, many instances in which the door unexpectedly opened up in flight.
“The fact that the cockpit doors are not as secure as they are made out to be by the TSA is alarming,” said Bob Tiernan, Managing Editor, Consumer Reports. “The pilots, who are on the front lines of security, say it’s the number one thing that could be improved.”
Although there hasn’t been a successful terrorist attack in the U.S. since 9/11, security officials and others on the front lines say that the security lapses make it easier for one to take place. Some experts in the industry think that the clock is ticking.
An internal e-mail obtained by Consumer Reports suggests that the TSA might be stacking the deck to try to perform better on covert tests. In April 2006, the TSA’s Office of Security Operations sent a memo to numerous security personnel titled “Notice of Possible Security Test.” It warned that airport security was being tested by the Department of Transportation in several airports and even gave some clues.
In addition, the TSA has been the subject of reports of mismanagement. A federal report in 2005 found that a private firm used to hire screeners for the TSA had estimated its fee at US$104 million but was paid US$741 million, including US$1.7 million used for the use of a Colorado ski resort for recruiting.
Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, believes that the government should close the gaps in security by instituting more effective screening measures, creating a second cockpit barrier, and improving training of the TSA officers, and providing more help for federal air marshals and flight crew members.
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