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TSA to overhaul airport screening after lapses

Report finds that airport screeners did not detect banned weapons in 67 of 70 tests at dozens of airports

The Transportation Security Administration plans to retrain thousands of airport screeners to detect weapons better, scale back a pre-clearance program and more closely monitor security badges, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.

Peter V. Neffenger, the agency's new administrator, told the newspaper that those measures would be part of wider reforms to address recent security lapses.

In June, Department of Homeland Security's inspector general found that airport screeners, who are TSA employees, did not detect banned weapons in 67 of 70 tests at dozens of airports, ABC News reported.

After the report, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson reassigned acting TSA administrator Melvin Carraway and said there would be more random covert testing at checkpoints.

"Efficiency and getting people through airport security lines cannot be our sole reason that makes you take your eyes off the reason for the mission," Neffenger told the Times.

The TSA has often been torn between demands for thorough security checks and appeasing hurried flyers. Jason Harrington, who left the TSA in 2012, spoke to the New York Times about receiving contradicting orders. “One day it was, ‘We want to thoroughly check everybody, even if the line is backed up to the ticket counter,’” he said. “But a short time later, it was, ‘We have to get these people through the lines.’”

Neffenger, a former Coast Guard vice admiral, testified before the House Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday about threats facing airport security. 

In the face of long wait times, the TSA in October started a program called “Managed Inclusion,” which allows passengers to go through checkpoints without taking off their shoes or removing laptops from their bags. These are traditionally perks given to passengers who have been cleared through PreCheck screening, a category of people who the TSA has vetted and deemed low-risk. Managed Inclusion, however, allows expedited screening for passengers with long wait times who have not gone through the same security clearance that PreCheck passengers have. 

Neffenger, according to the Times, said that the agency would cut back on the use of Managed Inclusion, and that he would make a push to get more passengers into the PreCheck program. 

Al Jazeera and Reuters

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