A GAO report released today shows that current TSA restrictions on liquids and gels are just shy of completely ineffective in preventing a terrorist attack.
Really? You don't say.
Earlier this year undercover GAO agents (as opposed to those who run around wearing uniforms and nametags) tested 21 airports nationwide, and managed to get liquids and detonators that can be combined to create IEDs and (another acronym we don't all want to come to know), Improvised Incendiary Devices (IIDs), past airport screeners.
They were universally successful (and this frightening finding comes just before the busiest travel week of the year). In one case, a TSA agent didn't allow the GAO a "small, unlabeled bottle of medicated shampoo" because he said the bottle "could contain acid." The same TSAer permitted a prohibited, liquid IID component to sail through untouched.
The screeners are hardly the ones to blame, though. The GAO found that "in most cases transportation security officers appeared to follow TSA procedures and used technology appropriately." The fault lay in nationwide TSA policies and standard-operating procedures that "increases the risk of a terrorist successfully bringing an IED, an IID, or both onto an aircraft undetected."
Reform maven Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) found the GAO's report "mind-boggling," but I'm not so surprised. The TSA failed to find similar components during a test run on Thanksgiving weekend in 2004 and it failed again in 2006.
For more tidbits, like how the GAO got IED parts (which run about $150), the full report can be read here. The TSA's totally unconvincing response to the report, in which they say you shouldn't worry because the failed security checkpoint is really just part of a larger tapestry of inspections, is here. Happy trails.