‘Disturbing’ undercover probe found TSA screeners missing many test weapons

Undercover tests have found Transportation Security Administration screeners failed to detect test weapons at a high rate, according to sources, findings that one Congressional committee chairman called "disturbing."

Members of the House Committee on Homeland Security were given details about security vulnerabilities by Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General (OIG) and the TSA administrator in a classified briefing on Wednesday.

"Quite frankly, I think I speak for all of us when I say that we found that briefing disturbing," Committee Chairman Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said at a hearing following the briefing.

The rate of failure was not disclosed at the public meeting, but congressional and government sources with knowledge of the report said it was high.

"We take the OIG's findings very seriously and are implementing measures that will improve screening effectiveness at checkpoints," TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in a statement.

"We are focused on staying ahead of a dynamic threat to aviation with continued investment in the workforce, enhanced procedures, and new technologies," Pekoske, who was just sworn in this August, said in the statement.

RELATED: Strangest weapons found by the TSA

The strangest weapons found by the TSA
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The strangest weapons found by the TSA
Holy purple projectiles, batman! All batarangs, no matter the color, must be packed in your checked bags. This one was discovered in a carry-on bag at Providence (PVD). #zlonk #glurp #blap #vronk #powie
This small knife was discovered in a pill bottle inside a carry-on bag at Jacksonville (JAX). Intentionally concealing a knife (no matter how small) can lead to headaches such as fines and arrest.
#TBT April 2012: Flying fish are found in the ocean, not on commercial aircraft. We hate to be a wet blanket, but spear guns are not allowed in the cabin of an aircraft and must be packed in checked baggage. This spear gun was discovered in a carry-on bag at Raleigh-Durham (RDU).
Holy cow! This cattle prod was discovered in a carry-on bag at the Chicago Midway (MDW) Airport . All shocking devices, especially cattle prods, are not allowed in carry-on bags. Please pack them in your checked bags with the batteries removed.
Which is mightier, the pen or the knife? This pen-knife was discovered in a carry-on bag at San Juan (SJU). Concealed knives can lead to fines and arrest.
We’re pretty sure this isn’t a letter opener. A bladed dragon claw perhaps??? Whatever it is, it should be packed in checked baggage. It was discovered in a carry-on bag at Atlanta (ATL).
Is this some kind of confangled rotisserie contraption for turkeys? Nope. These are Sai. If you’re a #TeenageMutantTurtle fan, you’ll know the Sai as Raphael’s weapon or choice. If you still have no clue, a Sai is a weapon used for striking, bludgeoning and punctures. Whatever it is you use them for, please know they must be packed in checked baggage. These were discovered in a carry-on bag at Boise (BOI). #TheMoreYouKnow
This ornate flask of black powder was discovered in a carry-on bag at Allentown (ABE). While it is a fancy flask, the black powder contained within is an explosive and is strictly prohibited in both carry-on and checked bags.
Packing list: Socks. ✅ Toothbrush. ✅ Curling Iron. ✅ Post-apocalyptic bullet-adorned gas mask. ❌ While gas masks are allowed in carry-on bags, replica bullets are not. This was discovered in a carry-on bag at Miami (MIA). Maybe he was catching a one way flight to #FuryRoad?
#TSATravelTips - Don’t pack your homemade replica suicide vest. The traveler who packed this vest in his checked bag at Richmond (RIC) stated it was a prop intended for use in a live-action role-playing game (LARP). TSA explosives experts raced to the checked baggage room and the airport police were called immediately. Fortunately, the explosives experts determined the vest posed no danger. It has yet to be determined if the officer who searched the bag needed a change of clothing.
While about to receive a pat-down after opting out of body scanner screening, a Chicago O’Hare (ORD) traveler remembered that he had a throwing knife necklace under his shirt. All knives are prohibited and concealed knives can lead to fines and arrest. #TSAGoodCatch
While some travelers are worried about packing nail clippers (they are allowed), others pack a pair of five-bladed floggers. You guessed it; these are not allowed in carry-on bags. If you’re in a situation where you’re going to need your floggers, they’ll have to be packed in checked baggage. These were discovered last week in a carry-on bag at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas (IAH). #TSATravelTips
You’ve likely heard that you’re not supposed to bring a knife to a gunfight? Well, you’re not supposed to bring either in your carry-on bag. Both replica weapons and knives are not allowed in carry-on bags. If you find yourself needing to travel with your gun knife, please pack it in your checked bag. This gun knife was discovered in a carry-on bag at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW).
This 4-bladed throwing star was discovered in a carry-on bag at the San Francisco International Airport (SFO). These must be packed in your checked bags. Sorry Prince Colwyn. #Krull
This belt buckle knife was discovered in a traveler’s carry-on property recently at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport (CAE). Concealed weapons can lead to fines and arrest.
Naruto’s ninja gear was discovered in a carry-on bag at Las Vegas (LAS). Please pack all ninja gear in your checked bags. #TSATravelTips
This knuckle knife was discovered in a carry-on bag at Memphis (MEM). Knives of any size are not allowed in carry-on bags. They must be packed in checked bags. #TSATravelTips
This impaler cane was discovered amongst a traveler’s carry-on property in Baltimore (BWI). These must be packed with checked baggage. Concealed weapons can lead to fines and arrest.
Many things can be hidden in shoes, but explosives are what concern us the most. This shoe is a replica of the bomb Richard Reid attempted to use in 2001 on his flight from Paris to Miami.

The TSA said in the statement that the classified briefing was “to discuss the results of the most recent OIG covert testing at airport security checkpoints."

In 2015, the then-acting head of the TSA, Melvin Carraway, was reassigned after an internal investigation by the Department of Homeland Security found sceening failures at dozens of the nation's busiest airports.

Screeners did not detect 95 percent of test items in that investigation. The breaches allowed undercover investigators to smuggle weapons, fake explosives and other contraband through numerous checkpoints.

The briefing and committee hearing on Wednesday came nine days after a terrorist attack in New York City involving a truck left eight people dead. The suspect allegedly told investigators he was motivated by videos from the terror group Islamic State.

McCaul called America’s aviation sector the "crown jewel of terrorist targets" and said, "America’s enemies only have to be right once, while we have to be right 100 percent."

Pekoske told Congressional members that the agency is prototyping two CT scan systems at checkpoints right now — the devices are already used for checked bags — that could give screeners greater ability to identify suspicious substances. He said the devices would be a "significant enhancement" over devices currently used at checkpoints.

The devices have been used for checked bags but not checkpoints because they were too large and heavy for checkpoints until recently, Pekoske said. The prototype systems are in Phoenix and Boston, he said.

Pekoske said that "to invest in the CT technology requires funding above what TSA currently has," but the agency wasn't on the path to CT development at checkpoints when the budget was developed, so the program wasn't reviewed for investment.

Committee member Rep. William Keating, D-Mass., noted that $1.28 billion, being charged to the public through surcharges, is being taken away for deficit reduction.

"Certainly, additional investment would make travelers, whether they’re Americans or people visiting our country, safer," Pekoske said.

Pekoske also acknowledged that poor morale at the TSA continues to be a challenge. Ranking committee member Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said at the hearing that it "has consistently struggled with low morale across the workforce, ranking 303 out of 305 government agencies in 2016."

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