How could a loaded gun pass by dozens of airport security screeners, through an x-ray machine and get on board an international flight out of an American airport? According to Iranian-American businessman Farid Seif, it happened to him last fall when he forgot to remove a loaded snub nose "baby" Glock pistol from his laptop case, but TSA security officers never noticed.
"It's just impossible to miss it, you know. I mean, this is not a small gun," Seif said. "How can you miss it? You cannot miss it."
But the TSA did miss it, and according to ABC News, this faltering security scenario is much more a common than anyone would like to admit.
Experts tell ABC News that every year since the September 11 terror attacks, federal agencies have conducted random, covert "red team tests," where undercover agents try to see just how much they can get past security checks at major U.S. airports. And while the Department of Homeland Security closely guards the results as classified, those that have leaked in media reports have been shocking.
According to one report, undercover TSA agents testing security at a Newark airport terminal on one day in 2006 found that TSA screeners failed to detect concealed bombs and guns 20 out of 22 times. A 2007 government audit leaked to USA Today revealed that undercover agents were successful slipping simulated explosives and bomb parts through Los Angeles's LAX airport in 50 out of 70 attempts, and at Chicago's O'Hare airport agents made 75 attempts and succeeded in getting through undetected 45 times.
Despite the results, there is no sign that the numbers have changed as the screeners have been tested year after year, former Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Clark Kent Ervin told ABC News.
"Those reports were classified but it's sufficing to say that reports, both classified and unclassified, are concerning. Too often guns and knives and fake explosives get through the checkpoint," Ervin said. "And what is particularly concerning is that nine times out of 10 the checkpoint is the most critical layer of aviation security."
Ironically, news of the TSA's failure to detect a loaded weapon during a routine x-ray screening of luggage comes amidst public outcries over the security organization's new, more invasive pat-downs and body scans.