Embarrassing security lapses at the nation’s airports are triggering renewed calls to replace the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) with private security firms.
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul said Congress needs to drastically overhaul the nation’s airport security process after a report last week documented a series of undercover sting operations in which agents tried to pass through security with prohibited items.
“We need to totally revamp ... the TSA process,” McCaul (R-Texas) said on Fox’s “America’s Newsroom” Tuesday.
“We need to look also at whether private screeners are better than public screeners,” he continued. “I think they can be more efficient, more effective.”
The report, from the Homeland Security Department’s inspector general, found undercover agents made it through security in 67 of 70 tests, including one instance in which a TSA screener failed to find a fake bomb even after it set off a magnetometer.
The screener in that instance reportedly let the agent through with the fake bomb taped to his back, having missed it during a pat-down.
The chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonDomestic extremists return to the Capitol GOP senator: Buying Treasury bonds 'foolish' amid standoff over debt ceiling, taxes Internal poll shows Barnes with 29-point lead in Wisconsin Democratic Senate primary MORE (R-Wis.), dismissed a majority of the TSA’s operations at airport checkpoints as “security theater.”
Johnson said bomb-sniffing dogs would likely be more effective at catching the types of prohibited devices that were missed by TSA workers and equipment in the failed bomb tests.
“We need to think outside the box,” he said. “We’ve got to think smarter. And so from my standpoint, if you have got a very high percentage in terms of effectiveness of a bomb-sniffing dog, I think that solution is pretty obvious, isn’t it?”
Democrats also expressed outrage at the TSA’s failure to find fake explosives and weapons in internal tests at almost all of America’s busiest airports, but they stopped short of calling for the privatization of the agency.
“We’ve got to remember, as we all sit and pound the desk about how bad TSA is, we keep cutting the amount of money they have. And we ask them to do more and do it better,” Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillRepublicans may regret restricting reproductive rights Sunday shows preview: States deal with fallout of Ida; Texas abortion law takes effect Giuliani to stump for Greitens in Missouri MORE (D-Mo.) said.
“Clearly one of the issues is, in fact, resources and how many people are working,” she continued.
TSA officials have noted the bomb tests were conducted by groups of employees known as “red teams” that are trained specifically in security evasion, but lawmakers in a Senate hearing about the findings on Tuesday found fault with that argument.
“The public is taking some comfort in the idea that this investigation was supposedly done by super-terrorists, is the term that’s reported in the media from the red teams,” Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said before asking Homeland Security Department Inspector General John Roth about the composition of his undercover testers.
“I think what we hear you doing is clarifying that in your employees, there are no red teams,” Sasse continued.