TSA hired dozens with links to terror groups
by Ben Bullard
On the heels of a revealing report demonstrating its ineptitude at catching would-be bombers, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has been targeted with a second damning report — this time for failing to properly vet new employees, several of whom turned out to be linked with the very terror groups agencies like TSA take pride in thwarting.
An Inspector General’s (IG) report Monday revealed the beleaguered agency “did not identify 73 individuals with terrorism-related category codes because TSA is not authorized to receive all terrorism-related information under current interagency watchlisting policy.”
While the review found the agency’s performance in using available employee-vetting practices to be “generally effective,” it also noted that TSA’s limited ability to cross-reference potential hires with all available watchlist information allowed more than six dozen applicants with possible terror ties to be hired and receive security clearance.
The report also notes that TSA left much of the vetting process to airports, which themselves did not uniformly apply the same set of standards to weeding through the agency’s pool of job applicants.
From the report:
TSA’s multi-layered process to vet aviation workers for potential links to terrorism was generally effective. In addition to initially vetting every application for new credentials, TSA recurrently vetted aviation workers with access to secured areas of commercial airports every time the Consolidated Terrorist Watchlist was updated. However, our testing showed that TSA did not identify 73 individuals with terrorism-related category codes because TSA is not authorized to receive all terrorism-related information under current interagency watchlisting policy.
TSA had less effective controls in place for ensuring that aviation workers 1) had not committed crimes that would disqualify them from having unescorted access to secure airports areas, and 2) had lawful status and were authorized to work in the United States. In general, TSA relied on airport operators to perform criminal history and work authorization checks, but had limited oversight over these commercial entities. Thus, TSA lacked assurance that it properly vetted all credential applicants.
Further, thousands of records used for vetting workers contained potentially incomplete or inaccurate data, such as an initial for a first name and missing Social Security numbers. TSA did not have appropriate edit checks in place to reject such records from vetting. Without complete and accurate information, TSA risks credentialing and providing unescorted access to secure airport areas for workers with potential to harm the nation’s air transportation system.
“Generally effective” indeed.
TSA took a beating in the public eye last week, with even mainstream media picking up an IG report explaining how auditors from the Department of Homeland Security were able to sneak weapons and bomb materials past TSA screeners 95 percent of the time.