Breaches at Federal Agencies and Airports

T-OSI-00-10: Published: May 25, 2000. Publicly Released: May 25, 2000.

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Robert H. Hast
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the potential security risk to the United States posed by the use of stolen or counterfeit law enforcement badges and credentials.

GAO noted that: (1) GAO's undercover agents were 100 percent successful in penetrating 19 federal sites and 2 commercial airports; (2) at no time during the undercover visits were GAO's agents' bogus credentials or badges challenged by anyone; (3) at the 21 sites that GAO's undercover agents successfully penetrated, they could have carried in weapons, listening devices, explosives, chemical/biological agents, devices, or other such items/materials; (4) at each visit, GAO's agents carried bogus badges and identification, declared themselves as armed law enforcement officers, and gained entry by avoiding screening; (5) at least one agent always carried a valise; (6) 16 of the sites GAO visited contained the offices of cabinet secretaries or agency heads; (7) at 15 of these sites, GAO's undercover agents were able to stand immediately outside the suites of the cabinet secretary or agency head; (8) in the 5 instances in which agents attempted entry into such suites, they were successful; (9) at 15 of the sites, agents entered a rest room in the vicinity of these offices and could have left a valise containing weapons, explosives, or other such items/materials without being detected; (10) except for one agency, GAO made no attempt to determine whether any of the cabinet secretaries or agency heads were present at the time, GAO agents visited their agencies; (11) at a federal courthouse, agents were waved through a magnetometer, but not screened and a brief case carried by one of the agents was not checked; (12) agents were escorted to a gun box room, which they were permitted to enter alone; (13) they were instructed to lock their weapons, but no one supervised or observed the actual surrender of the agents' weapons; (14) at the two airports GAO visited, the agents used tickets that had been issued in their undercover names for commercial flights; (15) they declared themselves as armed law enforcement officers, displayed their spurious badges and identification, and were issued "law enforcement" boarding passes by the airline representative at the ticket counter; (16) the agents then presented themselves at the security checkpoints and were waved around the magnetometers; and (17) neither the agents nor their valises were screened.

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