Is the TSA really ‘pitiful’?


It seems the antipathy felt toward the Transportation Security Administration isn’t limited to molested travelers. Lawmakers reviewing TSA performance records this week have slammed the agency’s performance as “pitiful.”

The assessment was in response to a classified report, leaked earlier this summer, which revealed a 95 percent failure rate in the TSA’s ability to detect mock explosives and banned weapons carried by auditors posing as travelers.

US lawmakers and federal watchdogs have now had a chance to review that report and the results are painful to read.

The hearings are painful to watch, too.

“In looking at the number of times people got through with guns or bombs in these covert testing exercises, it really was pathetic. When I say that, I mean pitiful,” said Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass).

For those who might be a little slow on the uptake, he added for good measure, “Just thinking about the breaches there, it’s horrific.”

Pathetic. Pitiful. Horrific.

Is that really an accurate description of the agency tasked to protect the lives and safety of US travelers?

Let’s hope not.


The TSA was marshaled into action as a direct response to the attacks on September 11. Since then, we’ve been assured that the inconvenience and personal intrusion we tolerate at the hands of the security agency are the price we must pay for a safe travel experience.

Testimony at a House Oversight hearing this week tells a different story.

Inspector General John Roth told the committee that TSA failures “included failures in the technology, failures in TSA procedures, and human error.”

“We found layers of security simply missing,” he said.

Related story:   Has the passenger shaming movement gone too far?

Jennifer Grover, of the General Accounting Office, testified that the “TSA has consistently fallen short in basic program management.”

If there’s truth to the claims, it can mean only one thing: The TSA isn’t doing its job. It’s not keeping us safe.

What’s worse, it means that the inconvenience, delay, invasion of privacy and general loss of dignity we endure from the TSA every time we travel are essentially for naught.

The news has travelers asking, “What do we pay these guys for, anyway?”

TSA Administrator, Peter Neffenger, said the agency was undertaking a “full system review.”

But after 13 years of aggravation, it seems the agency owes travelers something more than that.

Do you trust the TSA?

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Joseph Luther

Hailing from the great white north, Joe’s background is in corporate communications. He is a writer, media junky and believer in the power of the consumer for change.

  • Flywisely

    Well they are saints compared to this …

    Airport officials in the Philippines are suspected of planting bullets in passengers’ luggage.
    http://qz.com/540652/airport-officials-in-the-philippines-are-reportedly-planting-bullets-in-passengers-luggage/

    BBC article: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-34671118

    I don’t think you can get any lower than extorting money from innocent flyers.

  • Hanope

    I wonder if there were any tests of the TSA’s ability to be thorough. When my family went through security last weekend, the TSA pulled my daughter’s carry-on. It was the first time we’d packed everything in carry-ons for just a weekend trip and she had packed her hairspray, hair detangler and a spray-on conditioner in a side pocket of her duffel bag. I hadn’t warned her about liquids, not thinking that she’d need those items for a short trip (I guess even a pre-teen needs hair supplies). The TSA opened the side pocket and pulled the items. Since we didn’t have checked luggage, we had to abandon them.

    When we arrived at my sister’s house, my daughter stated how glad she was that the TSA didn’t find her full bottle of shower gel, which was in another pocket. I guess the TSA figured that all the liquids were in the one pocket and didn’t even bother checking the rest of the carry-on. Didn’t exactly make me feel that safe.

    We checked a bag on the way home for the liquids (as my daughter bought more hairspray).

  • NotThatBrooklynGuy

    You are correct the TSA are saints compared to that. Let’s set the bar higher than that!

  • Tricia K

    It amazes me that we put the safety of airline passengers in the hands of people making about $13 an hour. It’s definitely one of those you get what you pay for situations. I have always thought it should be handled by a branch of the military.

    As one who has several joint replacements, I dread going through airport security especially if I can’t find a whole body scanner. I have had some very unpleasant and overly aggressive pat downs and yet in Europe, they are very respectful. Quite honestly, I’m tired of showing them my underwear.

    I used to travel with a tens unit and as they are fairly expensive, I always put it in my carry on bag. If you saw it through a scanner, you would see what looks like an iPod and you would see the wires that attach to the electrodes. Depending upon how I put it in the case, it could have easily looked like a bomb. And not once did they ask me to take it out so they could look at it more closely.

  • Flywisely

    Here’s another headline that will make us proud of our own :-)

    Egyptian airport staff photographed accepting money from tourists to jump security queues

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/sinai-plane-crash-egyptian-airport-staff-photographed-accepting-money-from-tourists-to-jump-security-a6724036.html

    There are about 20K Brits on holiday in Sharm el-Sheikh and the UK cancelled flights to that airport after the Russian airplane crash. You can imagine the chaos for those just wanting to get home.

  • KarlaKatz

    This is one I’ve seen twice in Egypt; Once in Sharm, and again in Cairo.

  • cscasi

    TSA Administrator, Peter Neffenger, said the agency was undertaking a “full system review.”
    How many times have we heard this from government agencies when they are shown to be failing ? A full system review or top to bottom review. And, what did that accomplish; showing them that they failed or are deficient in certain areas. What did these reviews cost the taxpayers? WOW! We already knew that they were failing. The real question is, what did they do to FIX the problem(s) and restore the faith of the people who use their services? I fear many of them tweaked a couple of things and went merrily on down the road – in other words, did little or nothing!

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