GAO study finds TSA tests fail to result in improvements

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The Transportation Security Administration does a good job of identifying seams in the U.S. security blanket through its covert operations, but the agency fails to follow through on improvements, a recent U.S. Government Accountability Office report said.

"TSA covert tests conducted from September 2002 to June 2007 have identified vulnerabilities in the commercial aviation system at airports of all sizes, and the agency could more fully use the results of tests to mitigate identified vulnerabilities," said the GAO in its report.

"While the specific results of these tests and the vulnerabilities they identified are classified, covert test failures can be caused by multiple factors, including screening equipment that does not detect a threat item; Transportation Security Officers, formerly known as screeners, not properly following TSA procedures when screening passengers; or TSA screening procedures that do not provide sufficient detail to enable TSOs to identify the threat item," the GAO reported. "TSA's administrator and senior officials are routinely briefed on covert test results and are provided with test reports that contain recommendations to address identified vulnerabilities."

The GAO added, "TSA lacks a systematic process to ensure that [the Office of Inspections'] recommendations are considered and that the rationale for implementing or not implementing OI's recommendations is documented. Without such a process, TSA is limited in its ability to use covert test results to strengthen aviation security. TSA officials stated that opportunities exist to improve the agency's processes in this area."

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