Published on Thursday, March 10, 2011

TSA can’t even find box-cutters

The agency that was set up to protect the American public from terrorists had a bad month. So much so that travel commentator Christopher Elliott asks if they have “hit bottom.”

Perhaps the worst recent incident involved box-cutters which was part of the reason the Transportation Security Administration was formed after 9-11 and its infamous box-cutter-carrying terrorists.

Some observers wondered if the agency can’t even detect box-cutters, how successful have they been? The incidents have led some critics to say it’s time for the US Congress to take a closer look at the TSA’s effectiveness.

All 141 passengers and crew members aboard a JetBlue flight about to depart JFK had to be evacuated because TSA screeners missed three box-cutters stashed in a passenger's carry-on bag.

As The Post's Philip Messing reported, Jersey City factory worker Eusebio Peraltalajara boarded the plane with the razors, which he'd stowed in a carry-on after work and then forgot about them.

TSA never saw them. The razors were only discovered when they fell to the floor after a flight attendant asked Peraltalajara to stow his bag in the overhead. The attendant raised an alarm, which prompted a full terrorist alert.

So why did the TSA agents miss them?

The Post speculated they may have been sleeping. That was an opinion shared by Port Authority police.

But that was far from the only troubling incident:

---More than two dozen officers with the TSA in Honolulu are being investigated for reports that they were not screening checked in baggage for explosives, as their jobs require. The TSA says they face what they call “appropriate disciplinary action.”

---A federal Homeland Security employee who assisted in screening passengers at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport was arrested on charges that she provided help to drug dealers at the airport. The 43-year-old woman pleaded not guilty.

---The TSA denies it but the Daily reports it is testing a DNA scanner that would give passengers a “DNA patdown.” The TSA also says a report is wrong that it has been planning for years to deploy mobile scanning units at public events and in train stations, as well as mobile x-ray vans capable of scanning pedestrians on city streets.

Then there’s the matter of pistol packers.

Security screeners at the George Bush International Airport in Houston recently failed to detect a businessman’s Glock pistol in his briefcase. But in a later incident, an undercover TSA agent went through security at Dallas-Fort Worth with another pistol.

None of the TSA agents were disciplined, said an insider who blew the whistle on the latest incident.

All of this has caused a new wave of skepticism about the agency’s ability to provide security.

“If TSA screeners can't even stop guns getting through security, why are they taking away our bottled water?” asked the Gulliver columnist in the Economist.

“Incidents like this only lend ammunition to TSA critics who say the whole airport security apparatus is an enormous waste of time and money. The TSA's attitude towards the reporting of these sorts of screw-ups isn't helpful, either,” Gulliver added.

The agency claimed they didn’t reveal their own results of testing for “security reasons” after the latest incident.

The TSA should come up with more forthcoming answers, critics said.

“If it won’t, some enterprising congressional committee should subpoena it. ‘Trust us that this works’ just isn’t cutting it anymore,” said Gulliver.

By David Wilkening

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  • TSA is watered down.

    Yes, their entire focus these days seems to be finding and confiscating bottles of drinking water. I don't even pay attention to the old 3-1-1 (liquids in a bag) - it's just a waste of a perfectly good ziplock bag.

    By Lee Wilson, Tuesday, March 15, 2011

  • TSA

    I travel weekly between LAX and Phoenix. The LAX TSA are retarded, slow and can't seem to figure the security thing out. I accidently left a 5 inch knife in my brief case twice and it was not picked up by LAX TSA but was returning in PHX. Stupid is as Stupid does...

    By moconnor, Saturday, March 12, 2011

  • my pocket knife passed

    I was surprised to find my "lost" belt clip knife (3" blade)in an outside pocket of my carryon after 3 xray scannings. I'd totally forgotten I put it there 4 months before on a road trip. I left it behind rather than try to return to the US with it.

    By Richard Frisbie, Saturday, March 12, 2011

  • TSA never about security-about feel good

    TSA was never & never has had much to do with security. It was set up, to make a few silly people feel good. Turns people off going to the USA, at a time when USA is going down the toilet. At least the US dollar will keep dropping in value, but eventually only people, who'lll want to go to USA will be poor Mexicans & central Americans who know no better.

    By Craig Mathews, Saturday, March 12, 2011

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