Yesterday I wrote about the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) new enhanced pat downs being ineffective, providing commentary from a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) anti-terrorism expert.
The DHS expert detailed how someone could potentially smuggle explosives through both the new whole-body-imaging scanners and discussed technology under development that could identify concealed items. After posting the comments from the DHS anti-terrorism expert yesterday … I received an e-mail from a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) airport security analyst on their views of what would create a more effective airport security experience.
This is what the TSA airport security analyst had to say:
“In many ways I agree with the DHS anti-terror expert on the reasons the new pat downs are not an effective security procedure. There are far to many holes in the TSA’s current first line security. It is my job to closely look at airport security options and I see holes forming faster than a crumbling dam, without the funding of The New Deal to build the Hoover Dam to fix all the holes.
Ideally the TSA and the international aviation security community would channel their resources towards human intelligence gathering and interagency intelligence sharing, but politics gets in the way of this effective security. In an ideal security building environment we would not be beholden to politicians that want a tangible item rather than one based in the intangible nature of intelligence gathering in a nonmilitary environment.
In the absence of human intelligence options, due to very limited budget allocations for additional TSA Behavior Detection Officers, as well as those officers needing additional training and placement in a wider selection of airports, first line security needs to be layered. A metal detector misses things, a pat down misses things, advanced imaging technology scanners miss things. What needs to be created is a multistep screening for all passengers, without the ability to opt out. Building this system of course comes with the political pit falls, space constraints and budget allocations that plague the airport security systems that I am responsible for working to improve.
Within a multilayered environment a passenger would initially enter an advanced imaging technology scanner, then proceed through a metal detector, before finally being swabbed for explosives. Yes, this system might miss a small number of low density explosives and nonmetallic items hidden in a body cavity, but this system needs to be augmented with Behavior Detection Officers and a more effective use of preflight name cross checking of passenger manifests.
Nothing will stop everything, but security procedures need to be created by security experts not people in the front office focused on the politics of their careers. What the flying public is now experiencing are security measures that most airport security architects within the TSA generally disagree with.
There are multiple ways to cheat an advanced imaging technology scanner, the way you beat these new scanners is the same way you cheat the pat downs, you hide something deep inside a body cavity that will not be detected by current scanners or patting you down. Behavior Detection Officers however would likely detect these cheats. There is not a simple straight forward solution to devising airport security, but the present evolution is a step backwards when we need to be moving leaps and bounds forward.”
Hearing the thoughts of those within the DHS and TSA I am honestly left wondering what is wrong with the system. Clearly there is a disconnect between what needs to happen, what people in the DHS and TSA want to happen and what is actually being put into practice on the front lines of airport security.