The much-beleaguered Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is facing yet another crisis – its second in two weeks – after a new report from the inspector general’s office at the Department of Homeland Security discovered that the agency did not adequately screen 73 airport workers who had been placed on terrorism-related watch lists.
Far from inspiring confidence, the inspector general’s report portrays the TSA as being at the mercy of complex regulations, a deficit of information from other agencies, and bureaucratic entanglements that prevented the agency from verifying that the information they received on aviation workers was accurate.
Under the heading “What We Found” the report describes:
TSA’s multi-layered process to vet aviation workers for potential links to terrorism was generally effective… However, our testing showed that TSA did not identify 73 individuals with terrorism-related category codes because TSA is not authorized to receive all terrorism-related information under current interagency watchlisting policy.
In addition to not being aware that 73 airport employees were on terrorism watch lists, the report also found that the TSA is also lacking accurate information about the criminal history and legal status of other employees who work in restricted areas.
The report explains:
TSA had less effective controls in place for ensuring that aviation workers 1) had not committed crimes that would disqualify them from having unescorted access to secure airport areas, and 2) had lawful status and were authorized to work in the United States. In general, TSA relied on airport operators to perform criminal history and work authorization checks, but had limited oversight over these commercial entities. Thus, TSA lacked assurance that it properly vetted all credential applications.
The TSA apparently wasn’t even able to fully verify the identities of their employees because records sometimes omitted a candidate’s full name or social security number.
Further, thousands of records used for vetting workers contained potentially incomplete or inaccurate data, such as an initial for a first name and missing social security numbers. TSA did not have appropriate edit checks in place to reject such records from vetting.
This latest outrage comes on the heels of an internal investigation released last week by the Department of Homeland Security which revealed that the TSA failed to detect banned weapons or imitation explosives 95% at America’s most highly-trafficked airports. This monumental failure rate led to the ouster of the TSA’s acting chief, Melvin Carraway.
In an official response to the report, the TSA promised to screen workers against a more inclusive database by the end of 2015.