While a TSA agent pawed my hair bun this weekend, presumably on high alert for improvised explosive bobby pins, I pondered the latest news on the Somalia airplane terror attack.
Intelligence officials released video footage of airport employees in Mogadishu handing a laptop to a jihadist suspect before he boarded Daallo Airlines Airbus Flight D3159 last week. The device allegedly contained a bomb that exploded on the plane, which created a massive hole out of which the bomber was fatally sucked. Two other passengers were injured in the blast before the pilot successfully made an emergency landing.
Several airport workers have now been arrested, and the FBI is in Africa assisting the investigation.
The Somalia incident is not the only suspected in-flight inside job of late. Investigators believe a ramp worker at Egypt’s Sharm el Sheikh airport was recruited by ISIS to plant a bomb on the Russian airliner that crashed last fall in the desert of the Sinai Peninsula. All 224 passengers and crew members aboard Metrojet Flight 9268 perished.
America can rest easy knowing that TSA aggressively tackled my harmless chignon like the Denver Broncos on Super Bowl Sunday.
But as the TSA carries out its multi-billion-dollar charade of homeland security on babies’ bottles of breast milk, veterans’ prosthetic devices, and suburban moms updos, who is screening the screeners?
Last summer, the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general raised the alarm on the TSA’s faulty aviation worker-vetting process. The IG’s 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 interagency watchlisting policy.” Nor does the transportation bureaucracy have effective controls in place for ensuring that its employees “had not committed crimes that would disqualify them from having unescorted access to secure airports areas” and “had lawful status and were authorized to work in the United States.”
On top of that, “thousands of records used for vetting workers contained potentially incomplete or inaccurate data, such as an initial for a first name and missing social security numbers,” investigators found. “TSA did not have appropriate edit checks in place to reject such records from vetting.”
Stunningly, the IG disclosed that TSA has had to “deny credentials to 4,800 individuals that the airports had previously cleared for work in the United States because it could not verify lawful status for those individuals.” The report does not specify when exactly these 4,800 potential illegal immigrants from around the world finally had their badges yanked.
Eight months after this disclosure, the IG reported this week, “as few as one percent of all aviation workers applications” at larger airports are subjected to the inspections process to screen out aliens here illegally, visa over-stayers, and individuals convicted of disqualifying crimes.
Only in the last year has the Obama administration cracked down on airport and airline employees’ unfettered access to sensitive areas and their ability to bypass security checkpoints.
Only in the last week has the federal government finally changed its policies to allow the TSA to access counterterrorism databases.
‘My colleagues and I were prohibited from entering pertinent information into the database.’
— whistleblower Philip Haney
Actually, it’s not clear from the DHS inspector general John Roth’s follow-up testimony on Capitol Hill this week whether and when exactly this will happen. “TSA now or will soon have access to this information,” he told Congress. Hmm.
Even if and when TSA officials gain access to terrorism data, however, the question is whether that information is worth anything at all. DHS whistleblower Philip Haney, a 15-year veteran of the bureaucracy, reported last week on politically correct purges of counterterrorism databases ordered by his superiors. He says he was forced to “delete or modify several hundred records of individuals tied to designated Islamist terror groups like Hamas from the important federal database, the Treasury Enforcement Communications System.”
It gets worse. “Going forward,” Haney recounted, “my colleagues and I were prohibited from entering pertinent information into the database.” Whitewash in, whitewash out.
A budget of $7 billion. A workforce of 55,000. Useless explosives-screening “puffing” machines. Unreliable full-body scanners. Thousands of lost and stolen badges and weapons. Unknown numbers of criminals, illegal aliens, imposters, and terror operatives with security clearance to do as they please on ramps and runways across America.
Welcome to the TSA: the Total Security Abyss.