WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Some lawmakers spent the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks pressing the TSA over what it’s currently doing to protect our skies.
Since the 2001 attack, the federal government has invested billions in improving security features. That includes a slate of reforms passed last year — everything from expanded TSA pre-checks to more K-9 patrols. According to TSA-provided statistics, the agency has completed nearly half of the 180 requirements.
TSA Acting Deputy Patricia Cogswell told a senate committee her agency is working diligently to combat threats at airports across the country. Cogswell made it clear those threats haven’t gone away.
“Aviation and other modes of transportation remain highly sought after targets by terrorists,” noted Cogswell. “We know the importance of assessing risks as we carry out our mission.”
Because of those potential risks, Senator Rogers Wicker, R-Mississippi, says the agency is not moving fast enough to address last year’s security requirements. His colleague in neighboring Tennessee, Senator Marsha Blackburn, agreed pointing to a 2015 report showing agents were allowing dangerous items through security.
“Weapons getting passed your screeners 90 percent of the time by the red teams,” Blackburn said.
Another issue raised centered around whether the technology being used by the TSA should be cause for privacy concerns. Some lawmakers specifically pointed to biometric scanners.
“I’m concerned we’ve become the wild, wild west when it comes to biometric face screenings,” said Sen. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts.
Markey says the TSA needs to be more transparent about the technology it’s using — and what’s being done with the collected data.
“In my opinion, (we) should stop deploying these invasive tools until we can assure everything is in place in order to satisfy the need to protect information,” Markey added.
Nevertheless, the top brass at the TSA says it’s technology that will play a vital role in preventing future attacks.