House Panel Urges New TSA Chief to Fix Problems With Screening
Washington, DC: TSA will retrain every airport screener by the end of the September, the agency’s new chief told a House panel Wednesday. The effort comes after a report earlier this year from the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general that found screeners missed mock bombs and weapons in tests 67 of 70 times. Transportation Security Administrator Peter Neffenger, who spent 34 years as an officer in the Coast Guard before taking the helm at TSA earlier this month said he met with the inspector general to learn how the failures happened. “My highest priority is to ensure solutions to the recent covert testing failures,” Neffenger said. “This is a huge concern and it greatly disturbs me that we had that failure at the checkpoint.” Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, the panel’s chairman, said the findings “shatter public confidence” in the TSA. “A reported 96% failure rate to detect explosives is completely unacceptable,” he said. Neffenger also told the panel of other changes, including a plan to study perimeter security at airports after incidents of children stowing away on planes, new restrictions on who can pass through expedited airport screening and a fresh look at daily security screenings for all airport workers. Neffenger also said he envisions a moved toward using biometrics, such as fingerprints or iris scans, as boarding passes. Lawmakers had also raised concerns about TSA’s expansion of the popular Pre-check screening program, which allows travelers who volunteer information about themselves to keep their shoes and belts on at checkpoints, and leave laptops and small containers of fluid in the bags. Despite requiring fingerprints and an $85 fee for five years, more than 1 million people have signed up. In order to boost participation among 1.8 million daily airline travelers, the program expanded in recent years to include travelers randomly selected at checkpoints or those examined by bomb-sniffing dogs or behavior-detection officers. The House approved legislation Monday to require Pre-check be limited to travelers who belong to the program. Comment: Other bomb threats this week have targeted Oregon government offices and a California Highway Patrol communications center in Los Angeles.
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