Director of TSA reassigned in wake of security failures

FILE: In this Jan. 4, 2010 file photo, TSA officer Robert Howard signals an airline passenger forward at a security check-point at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in SeaTac, Wash. Flight attendants, pilots, federal air marshals and even insurance companies are part of a growing backlash to the Transportation Security Administration’s new policy allowing passengers to carry small knives and sports equipment like souvenir baseball bats and golf clubs onto planes. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

(WRIC) — Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on Monday reassigned the leader of the Transportation Security Administration and directed the agency to revise airport security procedures, retrain officers and retest screening equipment in airports across the country.

The TSA’s acting administrator, Melvin Carraway, is being reassigned to a different job in the Department of Homeland Security. Acting Deputy Director Mark Hatfield will lead the agency until a new administrator is appointed.

The directives come after the agency’s inspector general briefed Johnson on a report that looked into security procedures and found a 95 percent fail rate in prohibited items like mock weapons and explosives making it through TSA checkpoints.

In one case, agents failed to detect a fake explosive taped to an agent’s back, even after performing a pat down that was prompted after the agent set off the magnetometer alarm, according to ABC News.

The Department of Homeland Security sent undercover agents to dozens of U.S. airports and what they found was alarming. TSA screeners failed 67 out of 70 tests (or 95 percent), allowing those agents to repeatedly get through security with mock bombs and weapons. Now, big changes are being ordered.

Johnson on Monday also released a six-point memo outlining actions he’s taken in wake of the security failures, including directing TSA leadership “to immediately revise its standard operating procedures for screening to address the specific vulnerabilities identified by the Inspector General’s testing.”

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, in this Dec. 2, 2014 file photo. | AP Photo
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, in this Dec. 2, 2014 file photo. | AP Photo

The agency now has to revise standard operating procedures for screenings, provide intensive training for supervisors and re-test and re-evaluate screening equipment.

“The terrorists do watch us. They do watch and go to school on how they an learn from possible vulnerabilities,” former TSA Administrator John Pistole said. “It is disconcerting when we are trained to identify those type of prohibited items and it doesn’t work.”

Undercover testing has been done for 13 years to improve the TSA screening process.

While officials say the numbers in the report never look good when taken out of context, this time, the results were serious enough to require immediate changes.

Stay with 8News for more on this developing story.

 

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