Expert: TSA Screening Is Security Theater

TSA Head Disputes Claim, Tells <b>60 Minutes</b> Measures Are Necessary Because "This Is A War"

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But the question is: is everything we go through at checkpoints actually making us safer? Security expert Bruce Schneier says no. He says much of it is just "security theater."

"It's a phrase I coined for security measures that look good, but don't actually do anything," he explained.

Schneier, who has been an adviser to TSA but also its most persistent thorn-in-the-side, says there are too many silly rules.

Take the baggies for liquids, which became a rule in 2006 when British authorities uncovered a plot to bring liquid bombs on board airliners headed for the U.S.: Schneier says the liquid limits may make us feel safe, but do little to stop terrorists.

"If you try to bring a bottle of liquid onto an airplane, a screener's going to a see it, look at it, say, 'Oh, look, it's a bottle of liquid,' toss it over her shoulder into a trash can," he said.

Schneier said they don't test those tossed bottles. "They're not even scared of it. They put it in a trash can right next to them. That's where it stays all day. Alright, let's say I want to smuggle a liquid on an airplane. I go through airport security. If they catch me, I go around and go through again. If they catch me, I go round and go through again. I can do it 100, 1,000 - I can do it all day till I get it through. So because it's not treated as dangerous, there's no point in taking it away."

"But the British police did uncover a plot to use liquids. So you've eliminated something….You've put it off the table….That can't be bad," Stahl said.

"It's not bad. The question is, is it good?" Schneier questioned. "If there are 1,000 ways to blow up an aircraft and you get rid of one, you're a little bit safer. If you spend, I'm making this up, $10 million to do that, are you $10 million safer? Probably not."

How about $160 million safer? That's what TSA is spending each year on more than 2,000 "behavior detection officers." They prefer to remain anonymous as they roam checkpoints, examining micro-facial expressions, looking for signs of nervousness or anxiety. TSA claims it can help spot a terrorist.

"I have come crashing into airports, all agitated cause I'm late or whatever. Wouldn't they pick me out too?" Stahl asked Kip Hawley.

"No, because you're normal. Everybody that comes to an airport is behind and is tense and is anxious, and 'Am I going to miss my flight?'" Hawley said.

Hawley said the behavior detection officers can tell if someone is anxious over missing a flight or anxious over carrying a bomb.

But Bruce Schneier said there's not a lot of truth in that. "But they'd love it if you reported it, because, you know, in all seriousness, we are safer if the bad guys believe we've got this piece of magic."

60 Minutes asked TSA if any of the 180,000 passengers stopped by the behavior officers for an interview turned out to be a terrorist. They wouldn't tell us, but Congressional sources said no.

Now Congress is asking TSA for proof that all these expensive security measures are working, because it turns out that, despite rigorous training, screeners continue to miss things that government inspectors smuggle through the checkpoints.