The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) failed to vet 73 aviation workers who were on terror watch lists, according to a Department of Homeland Security inspector general’s report released Monday.
The report is the second major blow against the agency in as many weeks. Last week, the details of another inspector’s general report were leaked. The report found that TSA screeners failed to identify explosives and weapons in 67 out of 70 test screenings conducted at a dozen U.S. airports.
While Monday’s report called TSA’s screening measures “generally effective,” the inspector general stated that the agency had “less effective” controls in place to ensure that aviation workers did not have criminal records and terror-related red flags. The agency also was not properly equipped to screen out applicants who did not have legal authorization to work in the U.S.
“Our testing showed that TSA did not identify 73 individuals with terrorism-related category codes because TSA is not authorized to receive all terrorism-related information under current intraagency watchlisting policy,” the report reads, noting that the workers were employed by major airliners, airport vendors and other employers.
According to the report, the 73 workers with terror backgrounds were identified out of 900,000 active aviation workers using the National Counterterrorism Center’s Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE) system.
The report includes a table showing which terrorism codes applied to the 73 aviation workers, but it is redacted.
The reason for the knowledge gap is that TSA is not privy to some codes which are part of the “watchlist extract” included in the TIDE system. In order to include the new terrorism-related codes, DHS must issue a formal request to the Watchlisting Interagency Policy Committee.
Screening for aviation workers on terror watch lists was hindered in other ways, according to the report.
While airports are responsible for providing identifying information for aviation employees, the information is often incomplete. And that is a problem because of a TSA security directive which requires that the agency only initiate a security threat assessment for employees whose profiles have complete information.
The inspector general found that 87,000 aviation workers did not have a social security number listed on their employee profiles. Nearly 75,000 immigrant aviation workers did not have passport numbers listed. Another 14,000 immigrant employees did not have alien registration numbers.
In addition, the report notes that TSA had independently determined that airports were not providing all known aliases during the vetting process.
“Complete and accurate aliases are important to the accuracy and effectiveness of TSA’s vetting processes,” the report reads.
TSA agreed with most of the reports findings.