Lawmakers blast TSA for airport security measures

Updated July 14

Lawmakers blasted the Transportation Security Administration on Wednesday for ineffective security at the expense of taxpayer dollars, after the Department of Homeland Security released documents showing there have been 25,000 security breaches since 2001.

Although the breaches represent a tiny fraction of the 5.5 billion passengers since 2001, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, reminded the committee that terrorists only need to slip through security once to cause serious damage, while reprimanding the TSA for doing more to appear secure than actually be secure.

"A lot of what we have been participating in here, in my opinion, has been security theater," Chaffetz said, "and has not truly done the job to secure the airports to the degree we need to."

Another report from the Government Accountability Office said that only 17 percent of the nation's airports have received joint vulnerability assessments, which Chaffetz said was "not acceptable."

The TSA has come under heavy criticism in recent months for using pat downs and body scanning machines which some passengers say makes them feel uncomfortable and violates their privacy.

"It's inadequate," Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., said. "Because I can point to you that we can take a grandmother and strip her down, because it must be grimacing that she's going through terminal cancer, and yet we also have another foreign national that gets trough with an invalid visa.

The Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques, or SPOT, program also came under scrutiny, as Stephen Lord of the Government Accountability Office said the program hasn't been proven to be an effective means of identifying terrorist subjects.

"It's still an open question whether behavior detection principles can be successfully applied on a large scale for counterterrorism purposes in an airport environment," Lord said.

William Parker, an Inspector for the Amtrak Police, suggested bomb-sniffing dogs would be an easy way to increase security without further invading the passengers' privacy.

"A dog on a jet way, at boarding would improve security at no inconvenience to travelers," Parker said, "and would provide an elevated sense of security."

He added, "People are happy to see him, and it's not intrusive, and the dog is working. And who doesn't like dogs?"

TSA Press Secretary Nicholas Kimball said that the agency intends to deploy canine teams at airports soon, but they are not effective enough to replace body scanners.

"Dog teams are excellent detection assets in our layered approach," Kimball said, "however they have certain limitations compared to machines and are not used as a primary passenger screening method. Working time, passenger interaction and other basic animal needs are challenges to canines being the primary screening method."

The original version of this story mistakenly identified Rep. Gosar as Rep. Michael Turner of Ohio. Turner was not present at this hearing.

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