Government reports are usually pretty dry stuff, managing to make tedious even shocking tales of irresponsibility, corruption and deceit. Not so in the letter Department of Homeland Security Inspector General John Roth attached to a December audit of airport security’s handling of sensitive information technology systems.
The issue at hand is that a previous DHS audit uncovered “deficiencies regarding security controls for the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) information technology (IT) systems at airports.”
In other words, the TSA isn’t doing a good job maintaining good tech security while screening airline passengers. It’s using outdated software, failing to physically secure the rooms where sensitive security information is stored, and generally doing the kind of crappy, haphazard work we’ve come to expect from one of America’s most irritating and unnecessary government agencies.
After that first audit, investigators told the TSA to get its act together. This second report found that hasn’t happened. Instead, the TSA concluded it isn’t actually responsible for many of the problems and also that it would arbitrarily redact information that was previously available to the public.
Roth was not happy. The “TSA is abusing its stewardship” of sensitive information, he charged. “None of these redactions will make us safer and simply highlight the inconsistent and arbitrary nature of decisions that TSA makes” about the information it is supposed to protect. The entire situation, he added, “is more evidence that TSA cannot be trusted to administer the program in a reasonable manner.”
While Roth was speaking specifically about this failure in tech security, his excoriation could be fairly applied to the TSA at large.
Remember, this is the agency that paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop an iPad app that randomly points an arrow right or left. It’s the agency that paid more than $100 million for those nude body scanners whose invasiveness is only matched by how useless they are. It’s the agency that made an 82-year-old breast cancer survivor strip to the waist; that charged a man with a felony for a joke about peanut butter; that forced a woman to drink her own breast milk to prove it wasn’t explosive; that says, “We’re not detaining you. You just can’t leave.”
All of that is why it is no exaggeration to say the TSA is “abusing its stewardship” of everything it does—along with our constitutional rights—and it unquestionably “cannot be trusted” with any of its programs.