The acting chief of the Transportation Security Administration was ousted late Monday night after an embarrassing new report found that airport security officers badly failed a new test, missing almost every firearm and explosive investigators tried to sneak by them.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced the move, saying Melvin Carraway had been “reassigned” to another part of the department and his deputy would take over, serving until the Senate can confirm a new chief.
Earlier in the night Mr. Johnson had said he’d just been given a classified briefing on the inspector general’s findings that found a major loophole in security that could allow people to sneak prohibited items by TSA screeners and into what were supposed to be secure areas of airports.
Mr. Johnson said the preliminary findings were classified and said it wasn’t “appropriate or prudent” to talk about them — but ABC News reported that IG investigators managed to sneak contraband material by TSA screeners in 67 of 70 tests.
Mr. Johnson said he’s demanded TSA come up with new screening procedures aimed at fixing the “specific vulnerabilities” the IG found, and said he’s ordered new training for all TSA officers. He also demanded that equipment be re-tested.
“I continue to have confidence in the TSA workforce,” Mr. Johnson said. “Last fiscal year TSA screened a record number of passengers at airports in the United States, and, at the same time, seized a record number of prohibited items.”
Mr. Johnson said the stark number of missed contraband items looked bad “out of context,” but said the tests were important in trying to advance TSA’s mission.
TSA has been under scrutiny since it was formed as part of Homeland Security in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack.
Its screening practices have been deemed intrusive by many critics, including members of Congress, yet inspector general reports have also found myriad problems within the agency.
TSA officials have also drawn scorn as they’ve changed screening procedures, including prohibiting water bottles, setting levels for the amounts of personal hygiene liquids passengers can carry, and requiring travelers to take off their shoes for screening. Those changes were all imposed after terrorist plots were discovered.
• Stephen Dinan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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