TSA Fails To Find Bombs 60% Of The Time

According to a new report from the Transportation Security Administration, TSA agents failed to find fake bombs during security tests 60% of the time.

An aviation security expert interviewed by NPR says “screeners failed to notice such items as fake dynamite hidden in bathroom kits and bomb residue on shoelaces,” but notes that problems discovered by the tests have been fixed.

Tests Expose Holes in Airport Security [NPR]


Edit Your Comment

  1. legotech says:

    I *heart* the TSA’s response…”well they make the bombs very hard to detect”

    I guess he figures the bad guys are just going to walk through with them in plain view?

  2. nickripley says:

    I am thankful for the 40%, don’t get me wrong… but the other 60%? Maybe they are up that womans really short skirt? Better make her change it.

  3. MikeHerbst says:

    Fortunately, the TSA correctly detects 80% of multitools and nearly 100% of bottled water.


  4. XTC46 says:

    @MikeHerbst: hey bottled water is a danger! the TSA guy told me so…

  5. adrock75 says:

    Well, duh! They’re looking for big round black balls with a lit fuse!
    It’s that sign that needs to be updated – that’s the real problem.

  6. wildfire991 says:

    I think everyone kind of expected this. Even with terrorism, aren’t my chances of being killed by a drunk driver way better than my chances of being killed by a wackpod with a bomb vest? Quick, set up checkpoints at everyone’s garage! I wonder if they would only catch 40% of all alcoholic beverages?

  7. Adam291 says:

    What do you expect when the “security” are low wage and not very well trained. We should be paying airport guys 6 figures and giving them rigorous training and a whole lot of training.

  8. nickripley says:

    @Adam291: …We should be paying airport guys 6 figures and giving them rigorous training and a whole lot of training….

    … to do something totally unnecessary… unless they actually start finding bombs.

  9. XTC46 says:

    @Adam291: Have you seen what TSA pays? around here their pay starts at around 19 an hour, its not tons of money, but its more than double minimum wage, and considering you need no qualifications its a damn good job to get. The problem is, because of the no qualifications you get bottom of the barrel employees who cant do better. Most of the people here barely speak English…

  10. Libelous1 says:

    The more interesting part of the test was that at the San Francisco airport, they caught 80%. San Fran is the only privately operated security that was tested. The rest were govt operated.

  11. mroach says:

    @MikeHerbst: Yeah, they’re too busy looking for bottled water and people trying to sneak 4 oz containers of hand cream or other amorphous solids onto the plane.

    When I had a connection in New York after my flight from Tokyo I had to go through security again and I was stopped and questioned for having too many empty bottles. Great use of time. I brought a grand total of two empty green tea bottles from Japan because they were cool looking…

  12. JiminyChristmas says:

    The best term I’ve heard that describes the entire TSA boondoggle is security theater. It’s mostly just performance art put on to make you think you’re safe, rather than actually make you safe.

    What would you expect though, when an entirely new Cabinet-level agency, the Dept. of Homeland Security, was founded by Republicans…the party that purportedly doesn’t like government to begin with.

  13. n8srq says:

    They seized enough bottled water last year to irrigate the Sahara Desert and turn it into a forest. Watch out for those shoe bombers also.

  14. lesbiansayswhat says:

    The pay in Chicago is far from minimum wage..it’s $13.80 an hour. And that’s more pay than many jobs that require a college degree right now. I just went through several of their employment phases. The 2nd involved looking at xrays of bags that looked like they had bombs in them (crazy wires and shit) but required us to pick out stuff like toy cars and kitchen utensils and shoes. The process is ass-backwards, slow, inefficient and most of the applicants are yeah..not so bright. Which might be a requirement so they can turn you into an efficient but not so good at thinking drone. I have a college degree and was not offered a job. Meanwhile, the dude next to me in jeans and a tshirt probably went to the next phase. I also saw some training which was taking place in a building no better than a strip mall. Consumerist might find a good (better) undercover investigative story in this. You are warned not to talk about anything since it’s the govt but there’s nothing at all sophisticated about the TSA..don’t let the costumes fool you.

  15. TechnoDestructo says:

    TSA reduces number of bombs on planes by 40 percent!

  16. Draconianspark says:

    When I went through Newark Liberty the TSA agents seemed more concerned with keeping the bins neatly stacked than anything else.

    Now that I think of it, Florida and Georgia had the same exact bins. Do you think it’s a plot by some plastics company to sell bins?

  17. louisb3 says:

    I heard it was 5 out of 7.

  18. chartrule says:

    They sure do prohibit allot of items

    the do-not-fly list sure sucks

    The only thing they are doing is making it far more attractive to take the bus or the train instead to your destination

  19. TheCase says:

    hey people… they were fake bombs… so… it’s ok to let those go through… *cough*

    i can’t wait until they find a real bomb. that way we’ll all know this song and dance was worth while.

  20. CurbRunner says:

    Aw, come on now guys, give those TSA guys a break.

    After all, they did make up for missing those bombs by making that mom scrape the jelly off of her 5 year old son’s carry-on peanut butter and jelly sandwich before boarding a flight.
    Don’t you realize how explosive grape jelly really is???
    Whoops, I guess the peanut butter slipped by them.
    Oh well. Where did that plane explode anyway?

  21. chili_dog says:

    There is an easy and simple method that will eliminate the potential for bringing a bomb on board. Stopping all carry on luggage except a purse or laptop bag.

    Although, I am not surprised. In the pre-TSA days we had to do our own airline checks. We had a lead pipe, with a large metal alarm clock and some odd ball wires on it. (Very cartoonish). We had to call the screener supervisor and advise him that we would be conducting the bomb test, and actually tell him what kind of fake bomb we were using, and a 30 min window of when we would be doing it. Then, we would have to be escorted by the airport cops to the check point, where they would have to stand right with us as we watched the bag go thru the scanner. We were in full airline uniform and in a minimum group of 3.

    Odd enough, they only caught about 75% of the attempts. I later found out that because there were only 3 qualified GSC people at this airfield, when ever all 3 of us showed up, it was a known test. But still, they only found our bomb 75% of the time.

    Slackers, losers and retards abound and when you employ them, the performance level is similar no matter what the task.

  22. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    Yeah, because it’s not possible to hide a bomb in your macbook. If you want to go down that slippery slope, go ahead. But I believe what Ben Franklin says “Those who give up essential liberties to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither and lose both.” We, having given up our civil rights to purchase an illusion of safety, evidently deserve neither and lost both.

  23. Vitalis says:

    Back in February I went through airport “security” and I could think of at least a dozen ways to sneak anything from knives to explosives on the plane. Luckily, I don’t do those sort of things, but there are people who would, and it’s scary how horrible security is.

    They are focusing on the wrong things.

  24. Vitalis says:

    TSA shouldn’t even exist, the private screening was much better, they just weren’t looking for box cutters, if you believe that some terrorists could actually hijack planes with box cutters…

  25. Dr.Ph0bius says:

    @ Vitalis: I agree on both accounts. I also find that they are still very succeptible to “social engineering.” Also, I think there is still a subconcious mindset that affable caucasians are less of a threat than “danegerous minorities.”

    Of course, they might be concentrating on the growing threat of mini-skirts and anti-Bush t shirts being worn by passangers… and that is far more of a threat to liberty than my explosive chapstick!

  26. MikeHerbst says:

    if you believe that some terrorists could actually hijack planes with box cutters…
    … A SECOND time…

    Probably not. I think everyone knows the rules of engagement have changed. I think one would have trouble hijacking a plane with a gun these days, let alone a blade.

  27. CurbRunner says:

    To arbitrarily detain and release citizens is one of the elements of a fascist form of government and is always portrayed as some form of security effort.

  28. RISwampyankee says:

    I never understood the obsession with box cutters and other small sharp tools. The 9/11 hijackers didn’t succeed because they had box cutters; they succeeded because the passengers believed they would survive the event. I really doubt Osama’s going to to try the same thing twice. Why should he when there are so many fully fueled, lightly guarded cargo jets out on the tarmack?

  29. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    The TSA was created after the September 11, 2001 attacks for no other reason than to make the flying public feel safe about getting back on airplanes. If this hadn’t been done, the already floundering airline industry probably would have gone completely bankrupt. That could have triggered an even worse economic slide and done even more serious damage to the US economy. Don’t fool yourselves…the government couldn’t care less about anyone getting killed…they care about keeping the market strong and the $$$ flowing on Wall Street.

    I don’t believe there’s any way to screen out absolutely every potential terrorist weapon. There are too many passengers, too many pieces of luggage, and too many ways to hide things so they won’t be detected.

    I’m not saying that the TSA doesn’t help, because finding 60% of the bombs and knives is better than finding none of them, but it’s physically and logistically impossible to be 100% possibly effective in removing the terrorist threat. There aren’t enough resources and enough time to strip-search each and every traveler.

    The TSA was and still is a big dog and pony show to make you feel better about flying.

  30. Namilia says:

    @Vitalis: No kidding. I believe it was also in a report tied to this that found that TSA misses them 60% of the time while a private company hired by San Francisco only messed up 20% of the time.

  31. Namilia says:

    @dwayne_dibbly: I think you messed up the numbers…yes it is impossible to find them all, but you said they find them 60% of the time.

    The TSA fails to find bombs 60% of the time, not the 40% that you implied.

  32. Baz says:

    TSA is a joke – I’ve had a TSA agent question me about a metal belt buckle in my bag, while letting me board the plane with a leatherman I forgot I had packed in my carryon.

    If you think any of the security you actually see in an airport keeps you safe, you are dead wrong. It’s all a show. For instance, one night I arrived @ 1:00 AM into the international terminal at JFK. The lone guard at the exit hallway (from the secured side of the terminal to the unsecured) was asleep in a chair with headphones on. Downstairs, by the baggage claim, were two Army reservists with M-16s, just hanging around.

    I asked a PA cop what the deal was with the sleeping guard (who wasn’t even TSA but a rent-a-cop hired to cover late night TSA shifts). The officer said that kind of thing happens all the time at JFK. I asked him if it all the security talk was a big joke – he smiled a lopsided grin and said, “You tell me. You think they have guards sleeping at El Al?”

    Airport should handled properly and seriously by the federal govt. or be turned over to the airlines, and subsidized by flyers. The airlines know how bad a terrorism incident can be for their business – they wouldn’t cut corners in the security budget.

  33. Baz says:


    El Al is completely effective against a sustained and organized terrorist threat. Why is it impossible for Americans to do the same?

  34. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    BAZ: That means the government would have to do something right. It never works that way. We all know by now that the government ALWAYS gets it wrong and ALWAYS does worse than private enterprise. Well, almost…I guess (just covering my ass here).

  35. chili_dog says:

    El Al is a completely different situation. They have only a few airports and flights to cover and they only cover themselves. Not the whole of aviation in Israel.

    I was certified by El Al to just load their planes. I had to submit to a real background check, fingerprinting, a psych eval. This would be impossible to accomplish in the US, there is just too much activity.

    Besides, if the same principals were applied to US air carriers, flights would cost a grand just to go PHX and LAX compared to the 79 they are today.

  36. IRSistherootofallevil says:

    I’m pretty sure it’s pretty easy for an airline like Virgin America to do what El Al’s doing….they only have like what, 50 flights?

  37. JustAGuy2 says:


    Because El Al level security would bring air travel in the US to a standstill. El Al has about 40 flights PER DAY, basically out of one airport. That’s about 1/1000 the size of US domestic aviation.

  38. fishiftstick says:

    If terrorists decide to kill a bunch of Americans, they will do so regardless of airport security. They might even figure out a method that doesn’t involve airplanes.

    TSA is pure theater, which is necessary because people are scared sh*tless by any danger that makes CNN, and ignorant as hell about real risks.

    How many people feel safer because they make you take off your shoes? And how many of them didn’t wear seat belts on their way to the airport?


  39. vladthepaler says:

    Neither fake dynamite nor a shoelace’s-worth of bomb residue pose a danger to airline travellers, even if we assume the tainted-shoelace-owner has a heart of evil. It is right and good that airport security not “detect” these things: their focus should be only and exclusively on things which actually pose a danger.

  40. Nemesis_Enforcer says:

    @vladthepaler: How do they know they aren’t the real thing? You think they look at a fake bomb and make a judgement call? I hope not.

    You all are missing the biggest thing El Al does to protect themselves…racial profiling. They specifically spend more time checking anyone who looks like a arab. All the panty waists here would stroke out if we actually looked at the racial/age group of most terrorist bombers.

  41. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    @Namilia: Oops. Dyslexics of the world, untie!

  42. Maple_Sugar says:

    If that is what you really think how about going to congress with this, they are the ones that tell TSA what they will or will not do. Let’s have 2 planes. One plane will go through all the security processes the other will have NO security screening at all. WHICH PLANE WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE ON?