As thorough as the Transportation Security Administration screeners may be as they rifle through your belongings, the agency isn't performing where it counts.
In a series of trials, the Department of Homeland Security was able to smuggle fake explosives, weapons and other contraband past airport screeners in major cities across the country, according to ABC News. Officials briefed on the Homeland Security Inspector General's investigation told the station that the TSA failed 67 out of 70 tests conducted by the department's Red Teams -- undercover passengers tasked with identifying weaknesses in the screening process, NJ.com reports.
During the tests, DHS agents each tried to bring a banned item past TSA screeners. They succeeded 95 percent of the time.
The internal investigation was designed to find the TSA's most egregious vulnerabilities. The TSA has said Red Team agents are "super terrorists" who “push the boundaries of our people, processes, and technology,” but DHS officials told ABC the test results were frustrating at the very least.
In one test an undercover agent was stopped after setting off an alarm at a magnetometer, but TSA screeners failed to detect a fake explosive device that was taped to his back during a follow-on pat down.
Officials would not divulge the exact time period of the testing other than to say it concluded recently.
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson was apparently so frustrated by the findings he sought a detailed briefing on them last week at TSA headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, according to sources. U.S. officials insisted changes have already been made at airports to address vulnerabilities identified by the latest tests.
The TSA referred all questions to the DHS. A DHS spokesman told The Huffington Post that "Red Team testing of the aviation security network has been part of TSA's mission advancement for 13 years."
"The numbers in these reports never look good out of context, but they are a critical element in the continual evolution of our aviation security," the statement continued. "Upon learning the initial findings of the Office of Inspector General's report, Secretary Johnson immediately directed TSA to implement a series of actions, several of which are now in place, to address the issues raised in the report. These actions are in addition to a number of security enhancements the Secretary has directed TSA to implement to our aviation and airport security since the beginning of his tenure."
The administration still touts its dedication to safety and security. In a weekly report published May 29, TSA officials said they found 45 firearms and continue to discover inert grenades and other weapons "on a weekly basis." Many of the guns were found in carry-on luggage and had rounds in the chamber.
"Unfortunately these sorts of occurrences are all too frequent which is why we talk about these finds," TSA officials wrote in the report. "Sure, it’s great to share the things that our officers are finding, but at the same time, each time we find a dangerous item, the line is slowed down and a passenger that likely had no ill intent ends up with a citation or in some cases is even arrested."
In 2014, the TSA confiscated 2,212 firearms at 224 airports, after screening 653 million passengers.
UPDATE: Top TSA administrator Melvin Carraway has been reassigned, Johnson announced on Monday evening. Johnson also ordered TSA to take measures to reform security by revising protocol, retraining staff, retesting airport screening equipment and conducting more random testing at checkpoints.