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TSA Tipped Off Screeners About Security Test  
User currently offlineHalls120 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Posted (7 years 1 month 2 weeks 4 days 16 hours ago) and read 2528 times:

I realize that this took place over a year ago, but it doesn't exactly inspire confidence in TSA or their leadership.

If I was in Congress, I would be asking Mike Chertoff why this particular supervisor was still in a position of authority.

And check out the excuse offered by the TSA flack. I wonder if their PR people come from the same source as FEMA's.

Quote:
TSA Tipped Off Screeners About Security Test
In E-Mail to Airport Staff, Agency Official Relayed Alert on Undercover Agents

By Eileen Sullivan
Associated Press
Saturday, November 3, 2007; Page D03

The Transportation Security Administration promotes its programs to ensure security by using undercover operatives to test its airport screeners. In one instance, however, the agency thwarted such a test by alerting screeners across the country that it was under way, even providing descriptions of the undercover agents.

The government routinely runs covert tests at airports to ensure that security measures are sufficient to stop a terrorist from bringing something dangerous onto an airplane. Alerting screeners to an undercover officer's timing and appearance would defeat the purpose. But that's exactly what happened on April 28, 2006, according to an e-mail from a top TSA official who oversees security operations.
.....
The e-mail from Mike Restovich, assistant administrator of TSA's Office of Security Operations, relayed an alert that described a couple who were testing security.
........
Because the pair had altered the date on a boarding pass, the e-mail advised: "Alert your security line vendors to be aware of subtle alterations to date info."
.........
TSA spokeswoman Ellen Howe said, "We are confident in the overall integrity of the program. Tip-offs are not a systemic problem because we do so much testing."

OK, all you TSA defenders. Let's hear you rationalize away this one.

23 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineFlyASAGuy2005 From United States of America, joined Sep 2007, 7004 posts, RR: 7
Reply 1, posted (7 years 1 month 2 weeks 4 days 16 hours ago) and read 2511 times:

I am most certainly not a TSA defender.

But I do feel that the system is much better than it was. Does it have to be a government entity? I don't know. But we all know how much government contractors has "saved" us money over ther years. I do see it going private again over the next 10 years but I do feel that the government should still have close tabs on it's happenings...



What gets measured gets done.
User currently offlineLuv2fly From United States of America, joined May 2003, 12150 posts, RR: 49
Reply 2, posted (7 years 1 month 2 weeks 4 days 16 hours ago) and read 2509 times:

And people wonder why there is no confidence in the system. I will say it is better then pre 9-11 though it is still not good by any stretch of the imagination.


You can cut the irony with a knife
User currently offlineLH423 From Canada, joined Jul 1999, 6501 posts, RR: 54
Reply 3, posted (7 years 1 month 2 weeks 4 days 16 hours ago) and read 2497 times:

Quoting Luv2fly (Reply 2):
And people wonder why there is no confidence in the system. I will say it is better then pre 9-11 though it is still not good by any stretch of the imagination.

I agree. Yes, I think it's absolutely mind-boggling the things that have been happening with the TSA since it began 5 years ago. However, all this really is that we're seeing is government accountability. Just because these things were never reported before, who's to say it didn't happen. With private companies they're not required to release this information.

Yeah, it may look bad and I think the TSA needs a serious overhaul and attitude adjustment, I'll take them over the security that we had before.

LH423



« On ne voit bien qu'avec le cœur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux » Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
User currently offlineIkramerica From United States of America, joined May 2005, 21582 posts, RR: 59
Reply 4, posted (7 years 1 month 2 weeks 4 days 15 hours ago) and read 2477 times:

I wonder if the difference in finding "bomb parts" between LAX and SFO had something to do with the SFO staff being tipped off? The SFO screeners are part of a private screening test program, so I wonder if the management there tipped screeners off to make their company look good?


Of all the things to worry about... the Wookie has no pants.
User currently offlineAirTranTUS From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 5, posted (7 years 1 month 2 weeks 4 days 15 hours ago) and read 2420 times:

I don't think theres anything wrong with employees being aware that a test will occur. Giving away the description of the person doing the test is bad, but not telling them that a test will occur. It's no different than a grocery store notifying its employees that a secret shopper may be in the store between certain times on certain days and what they will be checking for.

User currently offlineJoness0154 From United States of America, joined Nov 2005, 667 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (7 years 1 month 2 weeks 4 days 14 hours ago) and read 2387 times:

Quoting AirTranTUS (Reply 5):
I don't think theres anything wrong with employees being aware that a test will occur. Giving away the description of the person doing the test is bad, but not telling them that a test will occur. It's no different than a grocery store notifying its employees that a secret shopper may be in the store between certain times on certain days and what they will be checking for.

You need to reevaluate your though process then  Smile

You're right, it is 'similar' to the grocery store example, but letting them know something is going to happen is wrong in either case. Employee behavior changes if they know something is going to happen. They become more diligent, etc than they would if they didn't know a test was occuring. You will get skewed test results if you inform a person that you are testing them than by just doing it without letting them know. This was 100% wrong.



I don't have an attitude problem. You have a perception problem
User currently offlineAirTranTUS From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 7, posted (7 years 1 month 2 weeks 4 days 14 hours ago) and read 2376 times:

Quoting Joness0154 (Reply 6):
You will get skewed test results if you inform a person that you are testing them than by just doing it without letting them know.

Maybe they should tell the screeners that they should always expect a test then?


User currently offlineSPREE34 From United States of America, joined Jun 2004, 2264 posts, RR: 9
Reply 8, posted (7 years 1 month 2 weeks 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 2300 times:

Quoting AirTranTUS (Reply 5):
I don't think theres anything wrong with employees being aware that a test will occur.

If they are doing the job as trained and correctly, why do they care when there will be a test?

Quoting AirTranTUS (Reply 7):
Maybe they should tell the screeners that they should always expect a test then?

Don't tell them anything except "do your job". What's so hard about that?



I don't understand everything I don't know about this.
User currently offlineHalls120 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 9, posted (7 years 1 month 2 weeks 4 days 12 hours ago) and read 2235 times:

Quoting AirTranTUS (Reply 5):
I don't think theres anything wrong with employees being aware that a test will occur.

Really.

In my opinion, tipping security screeners about an upcoming test is about as wrong a decision that can be made. The whole point of validating security measures is to make sure the measures work. When you tip off the screeners that a test is coming, it sort of makes a mockery of the entire process.


User currently offlineWPIAeroGuy From United States of America, joined Aug 2007, 240 posts, RR: 0
Reply 10, posted (7 years 1 month 2 weeks 4 days 12 hours ago) and read 2188 times:

That wasn't taken out of context or anything.

If you quoted the entire article, then all it says is that presumeably in the same email that supervisors were told to tell their screeners to watch for subtle changes. It does not say if that was sent out after the "couple" had already tested several airports and found failures, so therefoer eveyrone was alerted in hopes to change the process. If this email was really so sinsister as to alert everyone ahead of time so that performance numbers could artificially be boosted, then why wasn't more of it quoted? You can't tell anything from one of those lines. You TSA bashers really need to do some more research before you let the Associated Press educate you on the extremely complex details of an organization like the TSA. You don't know the nature of this test, why it was being conducted, or even if the screeners were supposed to know it was going on.

Quoting Halls120 (Thread starter):
Alerting screeners to an undercover officer's timing and appearance would defeat the purpose. But that's exactly what happened on April 28, 2006, according to an e-mail from a top TSA official who oversees security operations.



Quoting Halls120 (Thread starter):
Because the pair had altered the date on a boarding pass, the e-mail advised: "Alert your security line vendors to be aware of subtle alterations to date info."

No mention of timing or appearance. If that was the big tip-off wouldn't the AP quote that?



-WPIAeroGuy
User currently offlineJoness0154 From United States of America, joined Nov 2005, 667 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (7 years 1 month 2 weeks 4 days 11 hours ago) and read 2135 times:

Quoting WPIAeroGuy (Reply 10):
extremely complex details of an organization like the TSA.

 rotfl 

Quoting WPIAeroGuy (Reply 10):
You don't know the nature of this test, why it was being conducted

From the article

"a couple who were testing security"

Quoting WPIAeroGuy (Reply 10):
or even if the screeners were supposed to know it was going on.

TSA spokeswoman Ellen Howe said, "We are confident in the overall integrity of the program. Tip-offs are not a systemic problem because we do so much testing."

Your argument has more holes in it than the TSA does.



I don't have an attitude problem. You have a perception problem
User currently offlineAirCop From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 12, posted (7 years 1 month 2 weeks 4 days 11 hours ago) and read 2123 times:

Quoting Halls120 (Reply 9):
In my opinion, tipping security screeners about an upcoming test is about as wrong a decision that can be made. The whole point of validating security measures is to make sure the measures work. When you tip off the screeners that a test is coming, it sort of makes a mockery of the entire process.

 checkmark  Do you tip off staff at a nuclear staff that a security test is pending? No..

Quoting Luv2fly (Reply 2):
I will say it is better then pre 9-11 though it is still not good by any stretch of the imagination.

I won't go that far, TSA is nothing more than a feel good program that accomplish very little, and its frustrating for the traveler for TSA is have different procedures in different airports, what was okay (meds) for my wife to carry on board for her overseas flight was okay in PHX, and not okay at LAX. And then a smaller airports such as PNS they just up their own rules..


User currently offlineHalls120 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 13, posted (7 years 1 month 2 weeks 4 days 9 hours ago) and read 2055 times:

Quoting WPIAeroGuy (Reply 10):
If you quoted the entire article,

I didn't quote the entire article because I believe that is against the Anet rules. In any event, here's a link to the entire article. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...le/2007/11/02/AR2007110201898.html

Quoting WPIAeroGuy (Reply 10):
You TSA bashers really need to do some more research before you let the Associated Press educate you on the extremely complex details of an organization like the TSA.

I have the unfortunate "pleasure" to work with TSA in the course of my job. They are amongst the most incompetent government bureaucrats I have the occasion to to come across in DC.

And that's saying a lot, given the competition they face.


User currently offlineWPIAeroGuy From United States of America, joined Aug 2007, 240 posts, RR: 0
Reply 14, posted (7 years 1 month 2 weeks 4 days 6 hours ago) and read 1956 times:

Well from the entire article it seems that the email was more detail than you originally posted. This story seems much more beleivable now that the entire article was posted. I'll reserve the rest of my judgement until the investigation is complete.

Quoting Joness0154 (Reply 11):
"a couple who were testing security"

What does test security mean? You are all assuming that its a blanket evaluation of one couple and just seeing if they get caught at each airport. Testing security can mean anything from puttin a steel pipe through the metal detector to make sure it works to simulating a full-scale emergency response.

I don't think the TSA is perfect, or even close. The liquid ban is just stupid. However, what people need to realize is they aren't meant to protect against carefully planned and executed attacks by professionals. They are meant to protect against idiots who decide at a whim to go blow up an airplane. They are meant to protect against someone who is stupid and maybe has a grudge or whatever and is going to take it out on an airliner, and they get the idea from watching all the news on recent attacks. Should they protect against everything? Of course, and many beleive they do. In reality its the FBI and CIA and any other organization who is finding out these threats before they even get to the airport that are doing the important work. If you want Israeli style security then you better tell all of America to get off their high horse and prepare to get grilled with questions and thorough searches.

If you have a way to find out definitively in 1 minute everything a person has on them and what their intentions are, by all means bring it to the government, you'll be a millionaire.



-WPIAeroGuy
User currently offlineHalls120 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 15, posted (7 years 1 month 2 weeks 4 days 5 hours ago) and read 1926 times:

Quoting WPIAeroGuy (Reply 14):
However, what people need to realize is they aren't meant to protect against carefully planned and executed attacks by professionals. They are meant to protect against idiots who decide at a whim to go blow up an airplane.

And into which category would you put the 9/11 hijackers?


User currently offlineSW733 From United States of America, joined Feb 2004, 6371 posts, RR: 9
Reply 16, posted (7 years 1 month 2 weeks 4 days 5 hours ago) and read 1917 times:

Quoting FlyASAGuy2005 (Reply 1):
Does it have to be a government entity? I don't know

I don't think so. My current home airport is MCI, where there is a private security firm and not TSA, and we're just fine, no problems. Same goes with SFO...no problems.


User currently offlineHalls120 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 17, posted (7 years 1 month 2 weeks 4 days 4 hours ago) and read 1887 times:

Quoting SW733 (Reply 16):
Quoting FlyASAGuy2005 (Reply 1): Does it have to be a government entity? I don't know
I don't think so. My current home airport is MCI, where there is a private security firm and not TSA, and we're just fine, no problems. Same goes with SFO...no problems.

I was in SFO last weekend, and I was very impressed at their security operation. Their personnel were professional and sense of humor.


User currently offlineSW733 From United States of America, joined Feb 2004, 6371 posts, RR: 9
Reply 18, posted (7 years 1 month 2 weeks 3 days 17 hours ago) and read 1745 times:

Quoting Halls120 (Reply 17):
I was in SFO last weekend, and I was very impressed at their security operation. Their personnel were professional and sense of humor.

 yes ...I am writing this from MCI Gate 34, having just gone through security 5 minutes ago...despite it being a Sunday morning at 7:45am, they were laughing, had a sense of humor, and told me, when looking at my ID, "man, I wouldn't want to have to have put that name on my book reports in school, mine is tough enough!". Sure, there are some bad apples everywhere, but I have always been pretty happy with MCI security.


User currently offlineAaron747 From Japan, joined Aug 2003, 8289 posts, RR: 26
Reply 19, posted (7 years 1 month 2 weeks 3 days 16 hours ago) and read 1703 times:

Quoting Halls120 (Thread starter):
If I was in Congress, I would be asking Mike Chertoff why this particular supervisor was still in a position of authority.

I'd be asking him why he still bothers coming in to work. Oh wait...

Quoting Halls120 (Reply 13):
I have the unfortunate "pleasure" to work with TSA in the course of my job. They are amongst the most incompetent government bureaucrats I have the occasion to to come across in DC.

And that's saying a lot, given the competition they face.

 checkmark  checkmark 



If you need someone to blame / throw a rock in the air / you'll hit someone guilty
User currently offlineFanoftristars From United States of America, joined Jul 2000, 1615 posts, RR: 5
Reply 20, posted (7 years 1 month 2 weeks 3 days 16 hours ago) and read 1694 times:

Quoting AirCop (Reply 12):
TSA is nothing more than a feel good program that accomplish very little



Quoting Halls120 (Reply 13):
They are amongst the most incompetent government bureaucrats I have the occasion to to come across in DC.

Bingo! Anyone that travels regularly knows this. How many of you have had the TSA find a dangerous bottle of water in your bag, only to realize it has been in there for months and nobody else has caught it in months? Or a box cutter? or something equally as stupid. I'm telling you, we're in trouble when Joe Q. Public finds out he's no more safe than he was 10 years ago. And he's paying more to the government each time for them to be a reactive bunch of nit wits. There's no proactivity in that organization at all. I'm just waiting for the next possible security breach and the stupid rules that follow... Wouldn't it be nice for once if they could be proactive in improving safety?



"FLY DELTA JETS"
User currently offlineAa757first From United States of America, joined Aug 2003, 3350 posts, RR: 7
Reply 21, posted (7 years 1 month 2 weeks 3 days 15 hours ago) and read 1649 times:

Quoting FlyASAGuy2005 (Reply 1):

But I do feel that the system is much better than it was. Does it have to be a government entity? I don't know. But we all know how much government contractors has "saved" us money over ther years. I do see it going private again over the next 10 years but I do feel that the government should still have close tabs on it's happenings...

I think its probably better too, but I think a lot of that has to do with more strict rules about what you can carry on. Remember in 9/11 those box cutters were totally permitted on-board an aircraft.

I also agree that there isn't a problem with private security, as long as its tightly regulated. The government should set restrictions about the quality of equipment that they use, screener qualifications, training programs and should be allowed to test the system whenever and wherever they want. And the screening companies should be allowed to be fined. I think a manager worried about being fired after the government fines his station for violations has a lot more at stake than a government employee part of a security monopoly.


User currently offline2175301 From United States of America, joined May 2007, 1080 posts, RR: 0
Reply 22, posted (7 years 1 month 2 weeks 3 days 13 hours ago) and read 1589 times:

Quoting AirCop (Reply 12):

Do you tip off staff at a nuclear staff that a security test is pending? No..

Often - nuclear plant security is in fact "tipped off." Let me explain - and let me explain why that is necessary.

For certain simple test (such as someone smuggling in a gun or explosives) the routine security guards will not be tipped (although often very high level security people and very high plant management will know that such a test is going on because they authorized it). An example might be a trusted plant employee provided a letter signed by the site vice president and the head of security authorizing them to attempt to smuggle a real weapon or an explosive device into the plant during a certain period of time such as in a week to a month (at least those are the two signatures I'd require). I do know of employees who have in the past been used for such testing.

Direct NRC employees may also engage in such testing without prior authorization at the plant level. When caught all they have to do is announce that this was a test. I have never heard of a NRC employee actually trying to smuggle in a weapon or a bomb - but they do go through emergency use doors that are almost never opened just to see what the plant security response is (the last one of these that I am aware of was an emergency exit door from the RCA (Radiological Control Area) to the turbine building. RP then had to ensure the NRC employee and the area was not contaminated after security responded.

Nuclear plants are required by law to conduct realistic "force on force" drills where a small group of well trained/well armed people - with the help of a key person inside the plant - tries to penetrate to the plant control room or other vital plant area. These drills are very realistic - and the people on the assault teams are usually ex Green Beret / Navy Seals who's full time job is to plan and execute assaults on a nuclear plants.

These major test are always pre-announced (usually down to a 12 or 24 hour window), although the exact time and location of the assault is not known. A special duplicate in manning test defense force is used as the real security/defense force still has to protect the plant from a real threat.

The quickest way thought the perimeter security fences is by using explosives (which is what a real attack would do) - and these people do blow the fence (and extra real security forces with real weapons are on standby to appropriately secure the blown fences while standby repair crews fix the blown fences immediately after the drill). They, and the drill defense force, are armed with special weapons that shoot blanks for noise and laser beams to determine what they hit. All participants wear laser sensitive equipment so they know if they are injured (where) and how severe. Explosive devices to blow doors and anti-personel grenades are assumed (and drill devices are carried and used). Drill managers declare access doors open and people out of action (or limited action) based on what happens.

In addition to these major test, the security teams drill regularly on other intrusions (without blowing the fence). Again the drill teams are not the actual on duty teams - and such drills are scheduled.

For the major test - real people would die if people were not pre-notified and special test security teams not used.

For Airport Security testing you are not dealing with the level of armed response and automatic lock-down that exist at a nuclear facility. Thus, I see no reason why security teams would need to be tipped for any testing.

Despite all the hype about a terrorist threat against a nuclear plant.... with huge possible environmental consequences. These plants are the best secured and most hardened places in the world (and I would say that they are even better secured than actual nuclear warhead magazines - or at least what I saw for such security when I was in the Navy). Successful terrorist attack against a nuclear plant with "disastrous" environmental results... I don't believe it - unless they show up with a very sizable and overwhelming force - and have detailed knowledge of the exact plant security system, plant equipment and controls. I have seen people put out supposed methods on how if well trained terrorist got control of the control room that they could melt down the reactor in minutes. Really, how... (and lets just say that I know a lot of things I'm not willing to post on reactor and plant safety on this forum). People like me get paid to think up ways to actually melt down the reactor and identify them. Several hundred people at each plant - with detailed knowledge of the actual plant equipment and controls have been dreaming up plausible equipment damage / core meltdown scenarios and then insuring that it can't reasonably be done for decades at all of the US Nuclear Power Plants. We have the initial Design Basis Accidents (Loss of Coolant Accident, Station Blackout, Earthquake, Direct hit by a Tornado, Fire in the control room, Fire in vital areas, etc) then a series of other items identified after the plant was built (I currently work at one of the older plants), and finally things that have been identified as potential major emergencies although no one knows how you would get there. I'm not going to say it is perfect... but I don't see a truly major failure of all the systems built in place, nor do I see an easy way to disable them all. There are redundant methods and multiple backups everywhere, and the vast majority of it all works automatically.


User currently offlineHalls120 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 23, posted (7 years 1 month 2 weeks 3 days 13 hours ago) and read 1553 times:

Quoting 2175301 (Reply 22):
For Airport Security testing you are not dealing with the level of armed response and automatic lock-down that exist at a nuclear facility. Thus, I see no reason why security teams would need to be tipped for any testing.

The only reason TSA leadership would announce testing in advance is to ensure that their security measures would look like they are effective.

Nothing more.


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