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TSA

A Gun Slips Past the Thinned-Out TSA (and Onto a Plane)

A Gun Slips Past the Thinned-Out TSA (and Onto a Plane)
Jeff Edwards

Transportation Security Administration officials say that staffing levels have not been dramatically affected by the partial government shutdown which started on December 22. News of a security lapse in which a passenger brought a handgun onto an international flight, a growing “blue flu” and airports warning passengers of closed airport checkpoints paints a much different picture.

After an armed passenger managed to board a Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) to Tokyo Narita International Airport (NRT)-bound Delta Air Lines flight earlier this month, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials were quick to dismiss concerns that the incident was related to the ongoing partial federal government shutdown. The serious security lapse was the first of a number of signs that the Homeland Security agency responsible for protecting air travelers is under increasing strain as screeners enter a record fourth straight week without paychecks.

“The perception that this might have occurred as a result of the partial government shutdown would be false,” the TSA told CNN in a statement regarding the missed handgun earlier this month. “The national unscheduled absence rate of TSA staff on Thursday, January 3, 2019, was 4.8% compared to 6.3% last year, Thursday, January 4, 2018. So in fact, the national call out rate was higher a year ago than this year on that date.”

Although the agency’s overall staffing levels have held so far, there are indications that some airports across the country have been hit harder than others by employee absenteeism. According to local media reports, the wait at ATL security checkpoint lines has, at times, reached past the 60-minute mark. Meanwhile, officials at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) were forced to close one of the airport’s security checkpoints on Sunday due to “staffing issues associated with the partial shutdown of the federal government.”

A so-called “blue flu,” informally in place since the shutdown, has led to more than double the absentee rates at some airports. As the shutdown drags on and federal workers continue to go without paychecks, absenteeism rates are expected to continue to climb.

The TSA is also warning passengers that information about prohibited items and instructions issued to the flying public may not be up to date. In this case, the TSA admits that the unavailability of the latest security and safety information is a direct result of the federal shutdown.

“NOTICE: Due to the lapse in federal funding, this website will not be actively managed,” the TSA noted in a last message to passengers. “This website was last updated on December 21, 2018 and will not be updated until after funding is enacted. As such, information on this website may not be up to date.”

In a press release confirming that an armed passenger was allowed to board an international flight, the agency rejected the notion that the security lapse was the result of understaffing and promised that the TSA has held unpaid and understaffed workers responsible “appropriately accountable.” Those ultimately responsible for the current state of airport security, however, won’t likely be held appropriately accountable until the next election at the earliest.

[Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images]

View Comments (16)

16 Comments

  1. eng3

    January 16, 2019 at 9:28 am

    In the past “advanced” TSA testing, they fail around 80-90% of tests. One gun making it through doesn’t really prove they are doing worse. They could be doing better.

  2. pmocek

    January 16, 2019 at 10:33 am

    see also: “TSA Fails to Spot 80% of Weapons In Surprise Test,” by Carly Zinderman, FlyerTalk, December 11, 2017, https://www.flyertalk.com/articles/tsa-fails-to-spot-80-of-weapons-in-surprise-test.html

  3. fw10001

    January 16, 2019 at 10:42 am

    “Those ultimately responsible for the current state of airport security, however, won’t likely be held appropriately accountable until the next election at the earliest.”

    or the nation’s integrity, for that matter.

  4. awayIgo

    January 16, 2019 at 10:43 am

    Flying out of JFK, to TLV yesterday, TSA for the third time did their due deligence and opened my suitcase to check a jar of Sesame Teriyaki Sauce. I know that what they check because the first thing me they dug 1/2 down, messed everything, unwrapped it from the towel and then stopped. Second time it was near the top, again unwrapped- but they dug no further. Yesterday again, near the top and again it was the only thing they touched.

    I guess their no pay many I didn’t get a TSA note,but the button on my lock was popped, and the lock not at top of suitcase ( where I put it) but at side.

    Rest assured my fellow travelers YOU WILL NOT be attached by teriyaki sauce and I will be able to make some of my favorite recipes! 😉

  5. wreednelson

    January 16, 2019 at 10:57 am

    This is pretty much irresponsible reporting. There’s absolutely no proof of this has anything to do with the government shutdown. The TSA constantly shows in their own tests weapons get past checkpoints.

  6. Mark Meachie

    January 16, 2019 at 11:08 am

    It does not matter what the national absenteeism rate was that day they should look at the absenteeism rate for that crew.

  7. arcticflier

    January 16, 2019 at 11:58 am

    @ awaylgo.

    Sesame Teriyaki Sauce.

    Is that by chance a liquid?

    I seem to recall sonething about carrying liquida in your carry-on. Maybe if you placed your Sesame Teriyaki Sauce in a ziploc baggie and in the tote seperate from your bag then you would not have this issue.

    Simple behavior modification to follow the rules.

  8. flyshooter

    January 16, 2019 at 12:08 pm

    Look at the average TSA screener. There’s no requirement for triple digit IQ’s people. They’ve been missing guns, knives, and explosives when tested by their own even at full employment. Prove to me that this was because of a sick out.

  9. awayIgo

    January 16, 2019 at 1:21 pm

    @articflyer
    yes, it’s a liquid.

    And while I didn’t spell it out— my description should have made you realize it was NOT in my carryon. ( I spoke of NO TSA note. The lock had its’ button popped and was on the side instead of on top of suitcase.) When they inspect your carryon it is done in front of you! You do t need to figure out what triggered an inspection

    So, the only behavior modification needed is your reading everything that was written and not just skimming, I follow ALL. the rules,which is why I’ve never had anything can nfiscatd drom my carryon- or checked luggage.

  10. hawk1tdh

    January 16, 2019 at 4:50 pm

    Fake news pal! Why spew this b.s.? I was on a flight where. Someone got on board with a 21” hunting knife!! All while the TSA was at 100%! Before the shutdown a gentleman boarded a flight with a fully loaded 38 revolver,! Funny when I was growing up the news anchors came on every day and read the news of the day! No spin, no personal opinions, no made up stories to burn one party or another just the news and they went home.

  11. vandalby

    January 16, 2019 at 5:10 pm

    Completely misleading headline to this article. As others have cited, when tested even the fully funded TSA had an 80% – 90%+ failure rate. Recent testing at MSP produced a 95% failure rate until they prematurely stopped the test. The system was ineffective and incompetent consistently for years prior to the current government shut down.

  12. SpaceCoastBill

    January 17, 2019 at 5:40 pm

    Here is TSA at its finest. Flying out of PHX with a firearm in bag. They take me to a room and pen bag, take out small locked case, and proceed to swab for ETD.

    I ask them why they are swabbing a gun box that they already know contains a gun.

    The reply was “to test for explosive residue”.

    I tell them that Im fairly confident that gunpowder is classified as an explosive. ETD does not alarm….. so off the bag goes.

    Fast forward to the WTMD, they swab the hands of my 15 year old. It alarms.

    I tell the screener that its probably hand lotion, he says “probably so, go ahead” and we go thru the WTMDs unmolested.

    On another trip my wife makes it thru and at our hotel finds a loaded magazine in her purse she forgot to remove.

    Yea, these guys are $13/hr top notch employees. I feel much safer.

  13. SpaceCoastBill

    January 17, 2019 at 5:44 pm

    Another example,

    Flying armed and go around to exit to get around metal detectors.

    TSA comes to me and hands me a big knife my boss (who was not flying armed) that was found at the WTMD.

    As we walk towards gate, I hand him his big knife back.

    Now you got guys with guns who went around the WTMD, screening someone with them on the same flight just seems silly.

  14. SpaceCoastBill

    January 17, 2019 at 5:46 pm

    @fw10001

    Our countrys integrity is just fine, with the exception of the Democrats.

  15. myisland

    January 19, 2019 at 6:48 pm

    Politically motivated fake news

  16. SAM_KNAPP

    January 20, 2019 at 5:30 am

    Pretty sure thaThe TSA is also warning passengers that information about prohibited items and instructions issued to the flying public may not be up to date. In this case, the TSA admits that the unavailability of the latest security and safety information is a direct result of the federal shutdown.

    “NOTICE: Due to the lapse in federal funding, this website will not be actively managed,” the TSA noted in a last message to passengers. “This website was last updated on December 21, 2018 and will not be updated until after funding is enacted. As such, information on this website may not be up to date.”
    ____________

    Pretty sure guns have been on the list for a while now, with no changes….

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