If any of you are surprised by news that a fake IED-type bomb was cleared past two security checks at Newark’s Liberty International Airport last month, you shouldn’t be. I’ve maintained for years that anyone determined to get something past a security checkpoint will find a way to do so.
The TSA has a “special operations team” that performs undercover quality-control checks at airport security checkpoints. On February 25th, a team equipped with fake IEDs proceeded to various checkpoints at Newark airport to carry out this internal audit.
One agent’s IED was discovered in her carry-on bag (inside a child’s doll) but another agent had no trouble clearing security, even with a secondary check:
With the inert “bomb” stashed somewhere in his pants, he got through the magnetometer undetected at around 11 a.m. He was then pulled aside for a physical screening, and a TSA agent failed to discover the IED and allowed the “bomber” to go to his gate.
“He did have a simulated IED in his pants,” the source said. “They did not find it.”
The exact makeup of the mock IED was not available, but even devices small enough to be stashed in a passenger’s pants could blow a hole through a plane’s fuselage.
Not surprisingly, the TSA has refused to comment specifically on the incident.
Our whole airport passenger screening process is pure theatre and as I have said before, I would be perfectly willing to board a flight without having been screened, knowing that all of my fellow passengers also had not been screened. Taking steps to reinforce cockpit doors and screen checked baggage and cargo are important step to secure the flight–banning water bottles and box cutters are not (and now apparently pocket knifes and baseball bats are no longer a security threat…).
I fly through Newark all the time, most recently on Wednesday, and I can attest to the (lack of) professionalism of the agents. This week, an agent yelled at a man loudly for not having his passport open to the right page. He was stunned and apologized, but she just shook her head and muttered about these “people.” It is no surprise that last year alone, 52 Newark TSA screeners were fired and another 19 disciplined for “major security lapses and thefts.”
Airport passenger screening is a joke in America and this story only adds to the evidence. Thankfully, I am spared from a lot of this with PreCheck, but every time I see a story like this I just cannot believe we continue to play this game of charades.
ETA: Or could this all be a setup by the TSA to make full body scanners mandatory? See comment two below for an interesting perspective. Not that full body scanners are any better…