TSA Tipped Off:

From the Washington Post:

The Transportation Security Administration promotes its programs to ensure security by using undercover operatives to test its airport screeners. In one instance, however, the agency thwarted such a test by alerting screeners across the country that it was under way, even providing descriptions of the undercover agents.

The government routinely runs covert tests at airports to ensure that security measures are sufficient to stop a terrorist from bringing something dangerous onto an airplane. Alerting screeners to an undercover officer's timing and appearance would defeat the purpose.

But that's exactly what happened on April 28, 2006, according to an e-mail from a top TSA official who oversees security operations.

Wait a second...

Why wouldn't the government want to run a test like this occasionally? It's not hard to imagine a scenario where the government would learn an individual was going to attempt something on a certain day, and have a description of that person, and give orders that that person must be detained if he tries to board a plane.

What's wrong with that?
11.3.2007 12:32pm
Armen (mail) (www):
Fantasia, I may have misunderstood your comment, but are you saying that it's ok to tip off screeners because sometimes they need to be on the lookout for someone specific? If so, we can simply replace any field manuals with Where's Waldo books. Maybe make them do word searches occasionally. You know, improve their spotting skills. Or maybe, and this is just a humble suggestion, but just maybe we can train them to do what they were created to do in the wake of a certain incident on a certain date where screeners were NOT on the lookout for anyone in particular without having some bureaucratic [insert your own expletive] cheating to make the agency look better than it is.
11.3.2007 1:22pm
What, you don't think there's any value in testing to see if security officials can nab a wanted individual? Is it worth testing to see if a person described and pictured can make it through security?

I'm not claiming I know that's what they were doing here, but the facts here (and in the Post article) seem too sparse to be jumping to a conclusion that something inappropriate was being done.
11.3.2007 1:30pm
I really like this shoe bomber story on Pajamas Media today. The drill when a shoebomber is apprehended is to detain the shoe and let the bomber go.
11.3.2007 2:36pm
chuckc (mail):
Facts from the article:
1) "The government routinely runs covert tests at airports". GOOD

2)"several airport authorities and airport police departments have recently received informal notice [of this one particular test]" BAD

3) TSA sends out a general email describing the test. BAD?

Since that test was already partially compromised, any data from it would have been worthless. (Screeners at XYZ Airport catch the "testing couple", but the test conductors do not know if XYZ Airport was tipped-off).

However, the data from a "fully compromised" test are not worthless. Some of these data are:
1) How much longer do the lines get when TSA is trying extra hard?

2) Were the "testers" able to beat security specifically looking for them?

3) While TSA was specifically looking for a "couple [ including a white woman who has] an oriental woman's picture" did they miss the additional testers TSA sent out?

I'm guessing at #3, but it is an obvious addition to the test. (And that's assuming that a regular test only consists of two people)
11.3.2007 4:01pm
Talk about teaching to the test!
11.3.2007 4:21pm
Thoughtful (mail):
Giving a complete physical description of the undercover officer was clearly unfair. One would have thought the 5 gallon can of shaving cream he included in his carry-on would have been a sufficient hint...
11.3.2007 4:47pm
Maureen001 (mail):
There must be successes or approximations of success when learning a new skill. Isn't it about time airport screeners had a little success? Isn't it essential, if they are to improve?(tongue firmly implanted in cheek!)
11.3.2007 5:03pm
Anderson (mail):
Even I am occasionally surprised at how corrupt our executive branch has become.

Prison sentences for such fraud against the public trust would be an excellent idea.
11.3.2007 5:10pm
fishbane (mail):
I think it is time for the government (by which I mean Congress) to take a firm stand that we will not tolerate failure.

Lieberman should propose the No Screener Left Behind act, which will provide federal funds to either educate them on how to detect movie-plot threats, or remove the sinister buttock, up or down.
11.3.2007 7:50pm
Even I am occasionally surprised at how corrupt our executive branch has become.
Particularly the TSA, which was set up by the corrupt and inept [what a combo!] Norman Y. Mineta, the clueless Secretary of Transportation.
11.4.2007 12:41pm
BruceM (mail) (www):
They only way to provide the illusion of safety is to provide the illusion of competence.
11.4.2007 5:22pm
TSA's still incompetent? Must have been a slow news day.
11.5.2007 7:06am