TSA agents fail threat testing at Nashville's airport - WSMV Channel 4

TSA agents fail threat testing at Nashville's airport

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Internal testing results obtained by the Channel 4 I-Team show many agents with the Transportation Security Administration repeatedly failed tests designed to gauge their ability to detect dangerous items in carry-on bags.

The documents from 2009 and 2011 indicate not only did several TSA agents fail the tests but also weren't retrained quickly as mandated by TSA's own regulations.

The testing is called the Threat Image Projection, or TIP, program. It's a software program that tests an employee's ability to identify threat images.

Images of guns and explosives are projected onto X-ray images of carry-on bags.

If an employee scores below 75 percent, the agents are supposed to be retraining within a month, according to several documents.

Those documents indicate that months later, the employees had not been retrained.

The Channel 4 I-Team reviewed the documents with two former TSA workers, including Gerald Smith, who was a seven-year veteran TSA supervisor.

"If they are not catching these bags, what does that say?" asked WSMV chief investigative reporter Jeremy Finley.

"That says that they might not catch the real thing," Smith said.

The documents show one agent failed her TIP test in May, in June, in July and again in August, and wasn't retrained until later in August.

The documents show another agent failed for four months as well and there was no indication when he was ever retrained.

A former TSA worker, who asked us to conceal her identity for fear of retaliation, said the records indicate the agents may not be as skilled as they should be.

Other internal documents indicate the TSA may not be following its own guidelines in another area of the training.

Testing guidelines state in order to pass the TIP tests, all staff must screen a minimum of 500 bags monthly to keep their skills sharp.

But testing reports from 2011 show repeated cases of TSA agents not screening anywhere close to 500 bags during the training. The documents show one agent screened as little as 39 bags.

"Do you want to be the one that's being screen by those few? I don't want to be. They need that training," the former TSA agent said.

The TSA repeatedly refused our requests for an on-camera interview, but their spokesman said that there is no requirement, only a goal, to screen 500 bags. The spokesman said the goal exists to praise workers or to get them training.

The documents obtained by the Channel 4 I-Team indicate that the 500 bags is required for accurate TIP training.

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Brentwood, reviewed our documents and watched the undercover video the Channel 4 I-Team obtained from inside the airport.

That video showed airport employees not going through the screening passengers and pilots go through and never had their bags checked.

"It's a false sense of security. They absolutely should be screened," Blackburn said.

Blackburn is now calling for congressional hearings into TSA and wants our video and investigations included in the hearings.

"Here we are, nine years after 9/11, and we still have these wide gaps in our security," Blackburn said.

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