U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer says regular airport security lapses are “unacceptable,” and is calling on Transportation Security Administration leaders to improve agents’ training and upgrade screening technology.
The New York Democrat’s call for a top-to-bottom review of TSA procedures comes on the heels of an Office of Inspector General’s report revealing that the OIG office successfully evaded airport screeners in eight of 10 tests, sneaking banned items past TSA checkpoints.
Schumer’s comments come ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, over which millions of Americans are expected to travel by air.
Schumer highlighted the importance of effective screening measures in an era when lone wolf terror threats are at an all-time high.
“The problem here is with the destruction of ISIS territory, they are going to reach out and do other things — the kinds of things that are done by lone wolves,” Schumer told the Daily News. “And we need to be able to detect the kinds of explosives people could take on planes, because ISIS is getting more sophisticated. We need to up our game,” he said.
He called the recent test reports alarming, saying, “TSA should move immediately to address all holes, shortfalls and gaps in training procedures, technology, and the entire airport security process” in a statement Sunday.
He cited a recent incident in which a man dove onto a conveyer belt and snuck onto the tarmac at Miami International Airport.
In 2015, TSA agents failed to uncover 67 of 70 threats at airports across the country.
In one case, an undercover Homeland Security agent was able to smuggle a fake bomb throughout airport security, setting off a magnetometer, according to reports. But TSA screeners missed the fake explosive device strapped to the agent’s back during a pat-down.
Then acting TSA head Melvin Carraway was reassigned after the test results were reported.
Schumer, who since 2003 has raised questions about TSA equipment and screening procedures, says its record has improved, but that more effective measures are needed now more than ever.
“There has been some progress since 2003,” he told the Daily News. “But now with ISIS looking at new ways to get us, it is even more important.”
Congressman Michael McCaul acknowledged “vulnerabilities in covert testing” related to TSA security screenings at airports at a Nov. 8 Homeland Security Committee hearing in Congress.
Explosives and fake weapons were among the devices that were smuggled through security.
In 2016, the TSA screened more than 2 million passengers each day, and screened 466 million checked bags.