TSA security doesn't work
A while back I commented that personally, I don't really care about the backscatter machines or rock-concert-like "patdowns". But after reading a rather disturbing article over at ABC News, it's clear that despite all the whiz-bang new technology, the Achilles Heel of TSA checkpoints is old-fashioned human error:
According to one report, undercover TSA agents testing security at a Newark airport terminal on one day in 2006 found that TSA screeners failed to detect concealed bombs and guns 20 out of 22 times. A 2007 government audit leaked to USA Today revealed that undercover agents were successful slipping simulated explosives and bomb parts through Los Angeles's LAX airport in 50 out of 70 attempts, and at Chicago's O'Hare airport agents made 75 attempts and succeeded in getting through undetected 45 times.That's not a slim margin of error. That's a complete and total failure. And while this all happened prior to the wide distribution of backscatter machines (and in fact is what prompted it), it shows that when screeners have to look at the same types of images thousands of times every day, their ability to detect anomalies is compromised.
"We've had a series of reports actually going back several years from the inspector general, from the General Accounting Office, and our own TSA Office of Inspection, where they do, as you describe, covert testing," Pistole acknowledged to George Stephanopoulos last month during an interview on Good Morning America. "And unfortunately, [undercover testers] have been very successful over the years.Eventually, the process is going to have to become more automated, with computer-based algorithms for detecting anomalies. The TSA keeps their reports classified, so there's no telling whether the enhanced security is effective. I suspect that as long as it's people staring at those x-ray images (whether of people or of bags), we won't see much change.