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Airport Security

TSA Failure: Agency Falls Short on Most Undercover Screening Tests

After 15-plus years in existence, you’d think the TSA was pretty good at its job.

Sadly, you’re wrong.

A recent round of undercover tests revealed an agency that continues to fail at the most basic elements of its purpose. According to ABC News, these tests of multiple airport security checkpoints found that “screeners, their equipment or their procedures failed more than half the time.” ABC News’ source indicated that number may be closer to 80 percent.

In a public hearing of the House Committee on Homeland Security, Rep. Mike Rogers told TSA Administrator David Pekoske, “This agency that you run is broken badly, and it needs your attention.”

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This is not the only report of TSA failure during an undercover test, in fact, failing tests like this have been a troubling hallmark of the agency. ABC News noted that in a similar test two years ago, the TSA “failed 95 percent of the time to stop inspectors from smuggling weapons or explosive materials through screening.” Here at SmarterTravel, we’ve been reporting on TSA failure and stories like this for years.

What to do about an agency with such a bad track record? Hopefully, forthcoming advances in checkpoint technology will help. The TSA is testing new scanning devices that should not only speed up the checkpoint process but also make it easier for staff to identify questionable items in people’s carry-on baggage. Travelers have been waiting for this technology for a while, and it will take time for airports to roll it out, but it’s something.

In the meantime, the fact that the TSA hasn’t gotten its act together is downright shocking. Yet, it has remained in place, more or less unchanged, since the early 2000s. Travelers have put up with years of inconvenience, hassle, and frustration for … what? For an agency that makes failure routine? For security theater and a shaky sense of safety? The TSA has certainly done some good, and no one can truly say whether we’d be better off without it, but failure at this rate is embarrassing. The TSA as we know it today is outdated and clearly ineffective, if it ever was effective to begin with, and desperately needs to be rescued from itself.

Readers, what have your TSA experiences been like recently?

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By Carl Unger

Contributing Editor Carl Unger believes that every trip is worth taking. He loves an extended trip to Europe as much as he enjoys exploring the towns and landscape near home. Basically, you'll find him wherever there is good food, fresh air, and plenty of stories to bring home.

Carl has been writing for SmarterTravel since 2005. His travel writing has also appeared on USA Today and the About.com Boston travel guide.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "It's not revolutionary, but a small Moleskine notebook is my one travel must-have. It's great for noting things you want to remember and it takes up hardly any space in your bag."

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: "Japan. I'd love to take a month off and visit the cities, temples, and countryside. I'm fascinated by the country's juxtaposition of ancient traditions and modern ambitions."

Travel Motto: “Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” –Terry Pratchett

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: "Window."

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