Homeland to revise airport screening; TSA head reassigned

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An internal report found that threats were missed in as many as 95 percent of TSA screenings at U.S. airports. | AP file

WASHINGTON — Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on Monday reassigned the leader of the Transportation Security Administration and directed the agency to revise airport security procedures, retrain officers and retest screening equipment in airports across the country.

The TSA’s acting administrator, Melvin Carraway, is being reassigned to a different job in the Department of Homeland Security. Acting Deputy Director Mark Hatfield will lead the agency until a new administrator is appointed.

The directives come after the agency’s inspector general briefed Johnson on a report analyzing vulnerabilities in airport security — specifically, the ability to bring prohibited items through TSA checkpoints.

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Johnson would not describe the results of the classified report, but said he takes the findings “very seriously.”

ABC News first reported Monday that undercover agents were able to smuggle prohibited items, such as mock explosives or weapons, through TSA checkpoints in 67 out of 70 attempts. ABC cited anonymous officials who had been briefed on the inspector general’s report.

In a statement issued Monday evening, Johnson said, “The numbers in these reports never look good out of context, but they are a critical element in the continual evolution of our aviation security.”

Johnson said he had directed TSA to take several corrective steps, including:

  • Immediately revising standard operating procedures for screening.
  • Conducting training for all transportation security officers, and intensive training for all supervisory personnel.
  • Retesting and re-evaluating the screening equipment currently in use at airports across the United States.
  • Continuing to conduct random covert testing.

Johnson said that in the longer term, he has directed TSA and DHS to “examine adopting new technologies to address the vulnerabilities identified by the Inspector General’s testing.”

The Homeland Security chief said that over the last year, “TSA screened a record number of passengers at airports in the United States, and … seized a record number of prohibited items.”

Still, he said, the agency was “constantly testing and adapting the systems we have in place.”

Johnson also called on the Senate to confirm President Barack Obama’s choice to lead the TSA, Coast Guard Vice Adm. Pete Neffenger.

LOU KESTEN, Associated Press

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