TSA Union Says Frequent Security Lapses Are “A-Plus”

Only government employees would claim that an oppressive security regime — which requires pat downs, advanced body scanners, and easily circumvented restrictions on liquids — in order to keep terrorists at bay should be ecstatic about seeing 800 security lapses per year. For 56,000 employees, that works out to roughly 1.5%. (I’m hoping not many were given the opportunity to become repeat offenders.)

That was the finding from a Government Accountability Office report published this week, and reported in The Wall Street Journal and CNN.com, but the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents 45,000 of the 56,000 TSA employees, had this to say:

The American Federation of Government Employees … swung back at criticisms of TSA employees, saying the GAO report instead shows the work force is relatively problem-free.

Roughly 800 cases of security-related misconduct a year in a workforce of 56,000 “is A-plus anywhere else, any way you cut it,” said David Borer, the union’s general counsel. “The reality is the numbers are tiny, and the folks on Capitol Hill are trying to say the numbers are huge.”

Maybe the numbers are tiny in both an absolute and relative sense, but they have huge implication because the TSA is the one crying about the impending danger that someone, at any moment, is going to blow this country to smithereens. Until now it hasn’t been about the numbers or probability. (You stand a greater chance of dying during your daily commute to work.) It’s been their argument that only one person needs to slip through their net for disaster to strike. But apparently their job isn’t so critical anymore.

There are only 365 days a year, so 800 security lapses is roughly 2.2 per day. Fortunately terrorists have been even lazier. If I knew that there were 2.2 security lapses every day and were up to no good, I’d see that as opportunity. But to the TSA, that’s the sign of a hard day’s work! Next time a TSA agent yells at you in the security line, just tell them it’s okay, take a break! You’ll volunteer to be one of their security lapses for the day.

Scott created Travel Codex after learning how to travel better on a budget during grad school. He now flies over 150,000 miles every year.
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  • Haldami

    You say 2.2 per day is a lot hit how many airports are there and how many people pass though them? When you look at it like that, 2.2 lapses per day is insignificant. Do you expect perfection?

    • Scottrick

      Personally, I don’t think it’s a lot. But I also don’t think terrorism is a significant threat to the air travel industry.

      My point is that the TSA defends its existence because it argues that any one of us could be a threat to the nation. Every time a passenger is screened, it’s because that passenger is a suspected terrorist. So in that context, 2.2 lapses a day seems like a lot. That’s 2.2 suspected terrorists who get past security. If the threat were as real as the TSA claims, don’t you think 2.2 terrorists could do a lot of damage?

      • Haldami

        2.2 terrorists might, but with suspected terrorists its a crapshoot. I’m not saying the TSA are the defenders of our freedom. I’m just saying 2.2 on a large scale isn’t much.

  • Paul Goodman

    imagine if boeing and airbus were able to be that lax with their quality standards…

  • Carl

    Seems like a lot to me. Seems like it is about 800 times more than the terrorist they have stopped. Seems like the TSA process makes it much more likely that we will have our property stolen or our civil rights grossly violated than under the previous private regime. Even today, if I opt out, I am usually not permitted to keep my eye on my belongings. They seem to take a perverse pleasure in making me stand where I cannot see them.

  • Scott C

    I agree that the TSA is a huge waste of resources. But their argument, on this front, is not entirely ridiculous. Yes, 2.2 terrorists a day could do a lot of damage. But you can’t simultaneously point out how relatively minimal these lapses are in comparison to the number of screens that happen each day and then ignore what that means for how a terrorist might take advantage of the flaw in the system. Suggesting that it amounts to 1.5% per employee on an annual basis, while true, is misleading. If you’re going to look at percentages, it would be more meaningful to look at the number of lapses in relation to the total number of screens, not the total number of employees. Then you would have an idea of the percent chance someone could slip through the system.

    Yes there are lots of flaws in looking at it this way. As one example, this is looking at lapses that happened generally without regard to specific vulnerabilities that a motivated person could exploit. But if we’re going to talk about these numbers mean in terms of the likelihood of a terrorist slipping through by chance, then you need to make the right comparison.