TSA's Biggest Security Lapse? No Common Sense

Last Updated Jul 6, 2011 9:17 AM EDT

The latest in the continuing escapades of security theater involves a Nigerian man, old, invalid boarding passes, and huge lapses in security. As most everyone knows, Olajide Noibi, using a day-old boarding pass with someone else's name on it and no valid identification, was able to pass through security at JFK, board a Virgin American flight and jet off to LAX. He was questioned, released, and the next day Noibi showed up at LAX and tried to do the same thing.

The story is even worse than it sounds. Apparently Mr. Noibi was sitting in first class, and the passenger count didn't match the number of meals that had been boarded; and some passengers had complained about his bodily odor. Had he been sitting in coach, there's reason to suspect he would not have been caught.

This, of course, raises serious questions about security screening check points as well as airline gate agent vigilance.

To be fair, if I was working as a TSA agent having to physically view hundreds of ID cards each day, I suspect my eyes would glaze over in about 15 minutes and I might ask for a price check on aisle 5! They have a huge responsibility and a tough job made tougher by its monotony.

The good news is that, even with the invalid boarding pass, Mr. Noibi still had to pass through body scanners, so the odds of him carrying a weapon on board were slim. So he didn't really pose a significant security risk.

Still, the incident proves that no security system is foolproof. And yet, it can be improved, with better and more intelligent use of agent to passenger interaction -- as in a conversation. That would have quickly uncovered Mr. Noibi's scheme.

As a result, my sources tell me the TSA is accelerating a new program to train their front-line agents to use a combination of discretion, intuition and yes, conversation to make the passenger screening process much more effective. Technology can only go so far.

And no, he didn't get mileage!

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  • Peter Greenberg

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