Certainly the posting of the Transportation Security Administration’s screening procedures on the Internet was not the agency’s finest hour, but it was not the worst breach of security since 9/11, as I heard last night on CNN. While some were quick to pounce and ridicule, most of what was in that document can be deciphered by studying procedures at the checkpoint, something terrorists are known to do before they execute an attack.
TSA is a complex organization, and its people and policies should not be underestimated. The agency bases its operations on intelligence, and the document that was revealed does not account for constant updates and tweaks made based on current intelligence. Such changes can be applied at a given airport or on certain flights as needed. TSA also operates on the premise that ideally a terrorist is caught before the day of the attack. That is why there are so many layers of security, beyond physical screening at the checkpoint, and why the agency coordinates daily with law enforcement partners at the federal, state and local level.
The real bummer about this incident is that it gives critics another chance to take a jab at the agency that has managed to avoid controversy for quite some time. The agency employs nearly 50,000 patriotic Americans who are dedicated to ensuring that another terrorist attack on planes and other transportation modes does not occur. The majority of the front line workforce has at least five years experience, and that collective knowledge is a great asset against a would-be terrorist.
Officers and management nationwide completed an intense training earlier this year that takes them beyond the checklist mentality and enables them to rely on experience, and yes, even what their gut is telling them in a given situation. It has taught them to rely on their team as a network, just as terrorists try to infiltrate as a network. These public servants are formidable and deserve the public’s respect.
The beleaguered news media got a quick hit yesterday; good for them. The men and women of TSA are strong enough to shrug it off and keep going.