Government Watchdog Questions Value of Post-9/11 Travel Security Measures


Travelers are screened by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) workers at a security check point at O’Hare Airport on June 2, 2015, in Chicago, Illinois. The Department of Homeland Security said that the acting head of the TSA would be replaced following a report that airport screeners failed to detect explosives and weapons in nearly all of the tests that an undercover team conducted at airports around the country. (Photo: Scott Olson / Getty Images)

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) lacks data to demonstrate the effectiveness of several airport security measures adopted following the September 11, 2001 attacks.

A report released Monday by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded that the agency “does not have a complete understanding” of just how effective the billions of dollars spent on new security programs are in detecting and disrupting air travel threats.

Although agency officials cited the lack of a major terrorist attack aboard a US airliner as proof of worth of these countermeasures, the GAO was disappointed with TSA’s lack of empirical data to justify the costly security infrastructure.

“In the absence of any systematic or methodological approach to assessing TSA’s deterrent value, TSA officials have relied on theories of causality and limited evidence available from US intelligence sources,” the report stated.

The oversight body examined six specific security programs adopted after 9/11. The review included fortifications made to passenger prescreening, airport checkpoint procedures, checked baggage inspections, bomb-detecting canines, behavioral analysis, and the US Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS).

GAO noted that a TSA internal review in 2015 provided “mixed results” on the effectiveness of these airport security trappings.

The watchdog specifically cited classified information not included in the prior report about covert testing conducted by the TSA’s Office of Inspection, which found weaknesses in the checked baggage…

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