Sen. Chuck Schumer on Sunday called for a review of the Transportation Security Administration’s airport screening procedures and called its continued failings to detect weapons and explosives “a major threat we must neutralize.”
Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the U.S. Department of Homeland Security inspector general’s office should conduct a thorough review of the TSA’s employee training procedures and examine the need for upgraded weapons detection technology. Schumer added that if the TSA doesn’t make needed fixes, a takeover of airport security by the Department of Defense “should be considered.”
His comments come as millions of Americans prepare to travel on passenger airlines for the Thanksgiving holiday and follows a new report from the federal office of the inspector general that found undercover investigators were able to frequently evade airport screeners and sneak banned items past TSA checkpoints. Fake weapons and explosives were smuggled successfully through TSA-staffed security checkpoints.
“Since ISIS has lost most of its territories, they’re relying on lone wolves and other technology to do the kind of damage they always want to do,” Schumer said in an interview. “What we really need to do is redouble our efforts...The report reiterates that TSA hasn’t solved the problem, but there’s a new urgency given ISIS is relying on these lone wolves.”
David Pekoske, who appeared last week before the House Committee on Homeland Security to discuss the report’s findings, said in a statement then that the agency was pursuing new technology, such as automated screening lanes and credential authentication topography.
“We take the OIG’s findings very seriously and are implementing measures that will improve screening effectiveness at checkpoints,” Pekoske said Wednesday in a news release. “We are focused on staying ahead of a dynamic threat to aviation with continued investment in the workforce, enhanced procedures, and new technologies,” he added.
Schumer called the revelation of smuggled fake explosives and weapons “deeply alarming,” citing recent terrorist attacks, including the ISIS-inspired Halloween attack in Manhattan that killed eight people and injured 11 others.
In 2016, the TSA screened more than 2 million passengers daily and 466 million checked bags.