The Secrets TSA Keeps

by Conor Friedersdorf

As the guardians of America's airports put travelers through naked body scans and invasive patdowns, ponder this:

Houston businessman Farid Seif says it was a startling discovery. He didn't intend to bring a loaded gun on a flight out of Houston and can't understand how TSA screeners didn't catch it. Nearing the height of last year's Christmas travel season, TSA screeners at Bush Intercontinental Airport somehow missed a loaded pistol, one that was tucked away inside a carry-on computer bag. "I mean, this is not a small gun," Seif said. "It's a .40 caliber gun."

Seif says it was an accident which he didn't realize until he arrived at his destination. He says he carries the glock for protection but forgot to remove it from his bag. He reported the incident as soon as he landed, shocked at the security lapse. "There's nothing else in there. How can you miss it? You cannot miss it," Seif said. Authorities tell ABC News the incident is not uncommon, but how often it occurs is a closely guarded government secret. Experts say every year since the September 11 attacks, federal agencies have conducted random, covert tests of airport security. A person briefed on the latest tests tells ABC News the failure rate approaches 70 percent at some major airports. Two weeks ago, TSA's new director said every test gun, bomb part or knife got past screeners at some airports.

Two thoughts. 1) Perhaps if this sort of thing wasn't covered up, and we heard about it everytime TSA staffers failed to catch weapons, the resulting embarassment would improve their performance more than whatever method now being used. 2) I've got to submit to naked scanners and pat downs when they can't even catch weapons going through the x-ray scanners they've already got?

My faith in the ability of government to decide what should be kept secret and what shouldn't is now even closer to nil.