Security experts say TSA is due for an overhaul

Undercover federal agents had a 95% success rate at sneaking fake bombs past airport security

The Transportation Security Administration is on the ropes again — reeling from news that undercover federal agents had a 95% success rate at sneaking fake bombs past airport security checkpoints.

In response, the head of the Department of Homeland Security has “reassigned” TSA’s acting administrator. But security experts suggest bigger changes are needed such as making huge investments in new screening technology and overhauling the entire agency.

“This organization is not performing to standards of acceptance, at all,” said Anthony Roman, a former commercial pilot and president of Roman & Associates Inc., a global investigation and risk management firm. “You have to start from scratch.”

Besides replacing the leadership at the agency, Roman suggested that the TSA employ face-recognition software to identify potential terrorists and conduct regular audits to look for weaknesses in the security process, among other changes.

Douglas Laird, a former Secret Service agent and onetime head of security at Northwest Airlines, said the agency needs to invest heavily in advanced technology to replace decades-old screening devices, such as X-ray scanners.

“If you don’t give them the technology to find what they are looking for, you can’t blame the screeners,” said Laird, who is now a security consultant.

Some critics have called for nixing the TSA altogether and returning security responsibilities to the individual airlines. But the nation’s airlines don’t want the sole responsibility.

“We believe national security is inherently a government function,” said Jean Medina, a spokeswoman for Airlines for America, the trade group for the nation’s carriers. “Flying is the safest form of transportation and that is because of the multi-layered approach to safety and security, and cooperation between airlines, airports, government, manufacturers and labor.”

To read more about travel, tourism and the airline industry, follow me on Twitter at @hugomartin.

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