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TSA Not Tracking Patterns in Security Breaches: IG Report

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration failed to follow up on security breaches at Newark Liberty International Airport and doesn’t effectively track breakdowns elsewhere, the Homeland Security Department’s inspector general said.

“This report identifies a gaping hole in our airport security system and gives us a framework for how to improve security at Newark Liberty Airport and all across the country,” Senator Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat, said in a statement today.

Lautenberg sought the report after incidents in Newark, a hub airport for United Continental Holdings Inc., from January 2010 through May 2011. Those included an unauthorized man gaining access to the secure area of the airport, shutting operations for six hours, and an unscreened dead dog being placed on a plane.

On April 27, after the period reviewed in the report, Newark officials closed a checkpoint after an infant was passed to its father without being properly screened.

The inspector general compared Newark’s responses to reported breaches with other U.S. airports it didn’t identify. Newark took corrective action 42 percent of the time, the inspector general found.

Uniform Reporting

The TSA does a poor job defining what constitutes a security breach and reviewing reports to make sure they’re accurate, the inspector general said.

“Without an effective mechanism in place to gather information about all security breaches, TSA is unable to monitor trends or make general improvements to security,” the report concluded.

The TSA is addressing the inspector general’s recommendations by developing a single definition of a security breach, and it is refining in-house data to more accurately report, track and analyze trends, David Castelveter, an agency spokesman, said in an e-mail.

“TSA’s goal at all times is to maximize transportation security to stay ahead of evolving terrorist threats,” Castelveter said.

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