The TSA is essentially fighting for its bureaucratic livelihood after several safety blunders over the past years have caused lawmakers and the general public to question its effectiveness.
The federal agency was created following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and was intended to establish and enforce security protocols for the traveling public, mainly by air. Since its creation, the TSA has had several controversies.
Agents of the Department of Homeland Security in the summer of 2015, for example, disguised themselves as normal passengers and brought various forbidden weapons to test TSA employees, according to agency officials. The results: TSA agents were only able to detect three out of 70 weapons, which is a 95 percent failure rate. The acting chairman of the TSA at the time, Melvin Carraway, was immediately reassigned, according to NBC News.
Not long after, TSA failed to identify 73 aviation workers who were also on terrorist watch lists. (RELATED: TSA Agents Probe Transgender DNC Delegate’s ‘Groin Anomaly’)
Using a 3D printer earlier in July, security experts were able to replicate the seven master keys the TSA uses for locking away certain luggage. The agency told The Intercept that “the reported ability to create keys for TSA-approved suitcase locks from a digital image does not create a threat to aviation security. These consumer products are ‘peace of mind’ devices, not part of TSA’s aviation security regime.” (RELATED: Report: TSA Is Actually Making Airports LESS Safe)
House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster even expressed regret in March of last year on behalf of the country for creating the entity.
“I believe we made a big mistake in 2002 or 2003 when we set up the TSA,” Shuster told reporters at the Capitol, according to The Hill. “The Transportation committee … had experts from the British, the Germans, the Israelis all come testify before the committee and overwhelmingly they told us don’t set up a federal [agency].”
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul also expressed a similar sentiment. “We need to totally revamp … the TSA process,” McCaul said in an interview reported by The Hill.
Not only is the country’s physical security vulnerable, so is the U.S.’s cybersecurity. The TSA’s troubles throughout the past decade or so exemplify the federal government’s lacking ability to keep up-to-date and secure both physical and virtual infrastructures.
Tech expert John McAfee blamed the U.S.’s seeming cybersecurity ineptitude on a talent gap as well as a lack of innovative ideas. McAfee contended hackers, whether sponsored by a foreign government or lone wolf, and their virtual capabilities will always be superior since “the FBI will not hire anyone with a 24-inch purple mohawk, 10-gauge ear piercing, and a tattooed face who demands to smoke weed while working and won’t work for less than a half-million dollars a year.” (RELATED: Hundreds Of Organizations Worldwide Fail At Cybersecurity)
Russia and China, two countries that have breached critical data of the U.S. on a number of occasions, are apparently more likely to attract the attention of such kinds of people. (RELATED: The Facade Of US-Chinese Cyber Security Doesn’t Hide Continued Chinese Theft)
As an organization, the TSA failed rather terribly when tested. As a country, America did not fair much better when it comes to cybersecurity. A comprehensive report in June revealed that out of 50 nations, America was the 14th most susceptible to cyber-terrorism. Pakistan, for example, ranks 30 spots higher than the United States.
President Barack Obama is developing a Cybersecurity National Action Plan in order to address these critical shortcomings. Part of the strategy is to create a “one-stop shop” for different agencies to purchase cybersecurity technology, including vital tools and software that can help safeguard sensitive data.
But just like America’s cybersecurity, America’s transportation security will have to improve. The two realms of national safety concurrently show that while America leads the world in many areas, security is not necessarily one of them.
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