The TSA Has Been Letting a Lot of People With Links to Terrorism Work at Airports

Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

Brace yourself.

NBC News reports yet another Department of Homeland Security report has discovered a disturbing hole in the Transportation Security Administration's screening procedures. According to the findings, the TSA failed "to identify 73 aviation employees with active clearance badges with links to terrorism."

According to NBC News, the people are "employed by major airlines, airport vendors and other employers" and were not identified by the TSA because the agency is not cleared to receive all federal counterterrorism intelligence.

Wait, really? The report said while the TSA's procedures for screening potential aviation employees were "generally effective," the security holes that emerged were serious, and thousands of records used in the vetting process were incomplete. 

So it's not a stretch to think the TSA could have accidentally cleared a terrorism suspect to work on a plane or enter secure facilities, such as restricted areas like hangars, baggage handling systems and maintenance areas of terminals.

It's important to note the public doesn't know what "links to terrorism" entail. The 73 people in question could be suspected extremists, or they could simply have tangential connections to other people on terrorism watch lists. Most likely, it's a mix of both, though it seems unlikely the public was ever at risk.

Why you should care: According to NBC News, the TSA has already agreed to implement recommendations in the report designed to increase their access to federal watchlists and improve their clearance procedures.

But this news is especially concerning given a recent performance assessment carried out by DHS "Red Teams" that found undercover agents were able to smuggle weaponry or fake bombs through TSA checkpoints approximately 95.7% of the time. After that failure, TSA head Melvin Carraway was reassigned.

When the TSA isn't busy failing to do its job, it's letting the potential security threats it should notice slip right through. Maybe it's time to question whether security theater is worth the hassle and mile-long queues that wrack airports every holiday season.

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Tom McKay

Tom is a staff writer at Mic, covering national politics, media, policing and the war on drugs. He is based in New York and can be reached at tmckay@mic.com.

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