Every once in awhile, I come across a news story that makes me vomit in rage. This is one of those stories.
Here's the skinny. There's a government agency, now a branch of Homeland Security, called the Red Team. BTW, totally cool name. A friend of mine works for the San Diego County Attorney's Office, and reports to work every day at the Hall of Justice. Same sort of thing. Anyway, Red Team was originally formed after Pan Am flight 103 went down over Lockerbie, Scotland. Red Team's mission is to test aviation security by trying to sneak fake explosive devices onto airplanes.
Now, in an interesting move, the Red Team was put on hold after 9/11, but has since resumed testing airports. Which is exactly what anyone who wants safe air travel wants. Apparently, in recent tests, the TSA workers at Denver Airport (who are some of the biggest assholes I've ever encountered) failed to detect 90% of the fake bombs the Red Team attempted to (or, more accurately, were successful in their attempt to) sneak onto airplanes.
How do we know this? Probably because the government publishes this information because the government is willing to be held accountable to the voters and taxpayers, right? Sorry, I just couldn't help myself. Of course not. We know this because some TSA screener thought the 90% failure rate was so horrific, he/she leaked the information to the Denver news. See, according to the TSA, information on the performance of its employees is classified information. The TSA's Denver spokesman, when asked about the leak, said of the anonymous leaker: "They're out of line, it's not acceptable and it's not appropriate." Gee, I thought the same thing of your failure rate! But, let's be sure we keep our eye on the ball here: what's unacceptable is that someone leaked the test results, not that Denver TSA would apparently let Natasha and Borris and their bowling-ball bomb walk through security and get on my plane.
If all this talk of 90% failure rates is making you feel uncomfortable, rest assured that the TSA conducts its own tests, which are quite different from the Red Team's tests. TSA's spokesperson said that Denver's screeners have "done well in the past" with respect to the TSA's test. I can envision the TSA's test now: they hire a Mexican guy (because there are few Arabs in Denver and to TSA screeners, all brown people look alike), strap 2 bandaleros across his chest, Poncho Villa-style, have him carry 2 rocket launchers, and give him an ID that says his name is Percival Wiffelgate III. When confronted with that individual, Denver's TSA screeners apparently get a vague impression that something is wrong, most of the time at any rate.
I don't want to end this post on a down note, so I'll share the following comment from the former leader of the Red Team: "The last thing TSA wants to do is look bad in front of Congress and in front of the public, so rather than fix the problem, they'd rather just keep them quiet."
Whoops! That sounds worse than I thought it would. Let's try again: "There's very little substance to security. It literally is all window dressing that we're doing. It's big theater on TV and when you go to the airport. It's just security theater."
Holy crap! That sounds worse than the first one! Okay, third time's the charm: "The terrorists can pretty much do what they want when they want to do it."
Wow, that was, like, even worse yet. I guess I'll just try to end with a little recap:
People can smuggle bombs and other forbidden devices onto airplanes at will. You are not supposed to know any of this, which is why the TSA keeps test results top secret. The bad people in this story are not the incompetent, fascist screeners at TSA Denver who couldn't find bombs on passengers, but rather the person who leaked the test results to the public. The nation's foremost expert on security testing says that, in the language of the SAT: America is to future terrorist attacks as a drunk girl at prom is to the guy who slipped her a roofie.
Rest safely citizens, knowing that the government is acting in your best interests and keeping you safe!