Jim Kouri
Airport snafu: Security easily compromised by terror suspects
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By Jim Kouri
April 10, 2011

"[O]n at least 23 occasions its highly specialized Behavior Detection Officers failed to stop terrorists from boarding planes, investigators found. At least 16 people who were later charged or pleaded guilty to terrorism charges slipped through eight different U.S. airports with SPOT programs, according to the GAO's findings."

On Thursday, U.S. Congress members on the Homeland Security Committee led by Rep. Peter King (R-NY) obtained an important report from the Government Accountability Office on aviation security and it proved to be a disturbing document.

The attempted passenger aircraft bombing of Northwest flight 253 on December 25, 2009, provided a vivid reminder that the civil aviation system remains an attractive terrorist target. To enhance aviation security, the Department of Homeland Security's Transportation Security Administration (TSA) began testing its Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) program to identify persons who may pose a risk to aviation security.

The SPOT program utilizes behavior observation and analysis techniques to identify potentially high-risk passengers. GAO analysts provided Congress with information on the extent to which TSA has validated the scientific basis for SPOT and other operational challenges.

"Years after implementing a costly passenger screening program, the Homeland Security agency responsible for protecting the nation's transportation system failed to detect terrorists at U.S. airports on nearly two dozen occasions," according to Tom Fitton, President of Judicial Watch.

As a result the terrorists slipped right through "security" checkpoints and boarded commercial airplanes, according to the GAO report that's difficult to swallow nearly a decade after the worst terrorist attacks in U.S. history.

Unfortunately, it's true and, not surprisingly, it involves the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which was created after 9/11 mainly to prevent terrorists from using planes as weapons of mass destruction.

The agency's perpetual blunders have been well documented by Judicial Watch over the years, but this seems to be the icing on the cake for an agency with unlimited resources and unconditional support from Congress and the White House. A heavily-touted and quite expensive TSA program that targets terrorists by observing their behavior has failed miserably, according to a congressional probe conducted by the Government Accountability Office.

Known as Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT), the innovative project was implemented with great fanfare to enhance aviation security after Islamic terrorist slammed commercial jets into the World Trade Center and Pentagon. In 2010 SPOT cost taxpayers nearly $212 million and the Obama Administration wants $232 million for it this year.

But on at least 23 occasions its highly specialized Behavior Detection Officers failed to stop terrorists from boarding planes, investigators found. At least 16 people who were later charged or pleaded guilty to terrorism charges slipped through eight different U.S. airports with SPOT programs, according to the GAO's findings.

It gets better. Most of the airports where terrorists boarded planes rank among the top 10 highest risk on the TSA's Airport Threat Assessment list. For instance, an individual who subsequently pleaded guilty to providing material support to Somali terrorists boarded a plane at the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport en route to Somalia an another who later admitted providing Al Qaeda with material support took a plane at Newark Liberty International Airport to participate in a terrorist training camp in Pakistan.

Before pouring more taxpayer dollars into this dubious security program perhaps the Obama Administration should consider a point made by congressional investigators in their report; "the TSA deployed its behavior detection program nationwide before first determining whether there was a scientifically valid basis for the program."

© Jim Kouri

 

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Jim Kouri

Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police... (more)

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