In August 2006, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) substantially modified its passenger screening policies based on the alleged transatlantic bomb plot uncovered by British authorities. With the aim of closing security gaps revealed by the alleged plot, the revised policies severely restricted the amount of liquids, gels, and aerosols TSA allowed passengers to bring through the checkpoint. At the Committee's request, GAO tested whether security gaps exist in the passenger screening process. To perform this work, GAO attempted to (1) obtain the instructions and components needed to create devices that a terrorist might use to cause severe damage to an airplane and threaten the safety of passengers and (2) test whether GAO investigators could pass through airport security checkpoints undetected with all the components needed to create the devices. GAO conducted covert testing at a nonrepresentative selection of 19 airports across the country. After concluding its tests, GAO provided TSA with two timely briefings to help it take corrective action. In these briefings, GAO suggested that TSA consider several actions to improve its passenger screening program, including aspects of human capital, processes, and technology. GAO is currently performing a more systematic review of these issues and expects to issue a comprehensive public report with recommendations for TSA in early 2008.
Skip to Highlights