Skip to content
CityLab
Transportation

Airport Security: Astoundingly Expensive and 95 Percent Ineffective

A recent leaked report on the TSA revealed glaring failures by the agency. But screenings aren’t worth the cost even in the best of circumstances.
Charles Dharapak/AP
Charles Dharapak/AP

Airline security is a miserable business. Getting through a checkpoint is much like being in a fire drill in the middle of a traffic pileup at the busiest intersection in the city. And now, thanks to a leaked report on the Transportation Security Administration, we have a hard number to assign to our feelings of frustration: Airline security is 95 percent ineffective.

ABC News reports that TSA agents failed to detect a threat in 67 out of 70 recent trials. Posing as passengers, U.S. Department of Homeland Security “Red Teams” were able to carry weapons and fake explosives (“simulant” threats) through security checkpoints without any trouble. Former TSA Administrator James Loy, who led the agency in its first year, called the leaked results an “abominable failure.”