TSA steps up scrutiny in wake of fake bomb test


Transportation Security Administration personnel work at the Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington. The new TSA administrator has called for retraining of all agents after 67 out of 70 fake bombs got passed security checkpoints. 

(Jewel Samad / AFP/Getty Images)

If the security lines at the airport seem to be moving a bit slower, it’s because the Transportation Security Administration has increased passenger scrutiny following reports that agents failed to detect fake bombs carried by undercover agents.

After news leaked early this summer that 67 of 70 fake bombs got past TSA agents as part of regular security tests, the acting TSA administrator was replaced with Coast Guard Vice Adm. Peter Neffenger, who has called for retraining of all airport security agents by the end of September.

Neffenger also called for other changes that may lead to slower lines at airport security checkpoints.

He told a congressional panel in Washington last month that agents were going to reintroduce hand-head metal detectors whenever a flier sets off an alarm on a full-body scanner. Over the last few years, pat-down searches have primarily been used when an alarm is triggered, but at least one of the fake bombs was reportedly missed by a pat-down search.


Neffenger also called for increased use of swab tests to check passengers’ hands for traces of explosives.

The way the TSA operates its PreCheck program has also changed. The faster screening lines are dedicated to low-risk passengers who have submitted background information to the government for pre-clearance.

In the last few years, TSA agents have allowed regular passengers into PreCheck lines when standard screening lines grew too long. TSA officials said that practice will be “scaled back.”

Another reason for the change in PreCheck may be that a famous felon was cleared in June 2014 to use a low-risk screening lane at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Sara Jane Olson is a former member of a terrorist group known as the Symbionese Liberation Army.


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

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