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Airport screeners fail to see most test bombs

Ron Marsico / Newhouse News Service | October 30 2006

NEWARK, N.J. Screeners at Newark Liberty International Airport, one of the starting points for the Sept. 11 hijackers, failed 20 of 22 security tests conducted by undercover U.S. agents last week, missing concealed bombs and guns at checkpoints throughout the major air hub's three terminals, according to federal security officials.

The tests, conducted Oct. 19 by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents, also revealed failures by screeners to follow standard operating procedures while checking passengers and their baggage for prohibited items, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"We can do better, and training is the path to improved performance," said Mark Hatfield Jr., the Newark airport's federal security director. The poor test results at Newark come after heightened security procedures that the TSA put in place at U.S. airports in August.

One of the security officials familiar with last week's tests said Newark screeners missed fake explosive devices hidden under bottles of water in carry-on luggage, taped beneath an agent's clothing and concealed under a leg bandage another tester wore.

The official said screeners also failed to use handheld metal-detector wands when required, missed an explosive device during a pat-down and failed to properly hand-check suspicious carry-on bags. Supervisors also were cited for failing to properly monitor checkpoint screeners, the official said. "We just totally missed everything," the official said.


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