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You can probably remember a time when you’ve been held up during the airport security screening process by something as innocent as forgotten bottle of lotion or an electric toothbrush. But while Transportation Security Administration agents seem to do fine catching things they don’t need to, a recent internal investigation into the agency found otherwise when it came to catching potentially dangerous items.
TSA agents failed 67 out of 70 tests run by undercover investigators with the Department of Homeland Security, where DHS agents were able to smuggle fake explosives or banned weapons through checkpoints, ABC News reports, citing officials briefed on the results of a recent Homeland Security Inspector General’s report.
“Red Team” agents, as they’re known, posed as passengers to try and beat the system, which they managed to do 95% of the time. In one case, an undercover agent was held up when he set off an alarm, but TSA screeners then failed to find a fake explosive device taped to his back during a pat down.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson sought a detailed briefing on the results last week at TSA headquarters, sources say.
“Upon learning the initial findings of the Office of Inspector General’s report, Secretary Johnson immediately directed TSA to implement a series of actions, several of which are now in place, to address the issues raised in the report,” the DHS said in a written statement to ABC News.
Officials say security at the country’s airports is multi-layered and strong, but that the latest results were disappointing nevertheless, according to insiders cited by ABC.
You might recall a similar incident in 2013, when an undercover TSA agent made it through security at Newark Airport with an explosive device stuffed down his pants.
Back then, the TSA issued a statement that this kind of testing was normal.
“TSA regularly conducts covert testing of security layers. Regardless of the tests’ outcome, TSA officers are provided with immediate on-the-spot feedback so they receive the maximum training value that the drills offer,” a statement said. “Due to the security-sensitive nature of the tests, TSA does not publicly share details about how they are conducted, what specifically is tested or the outcomes.”