Fear of Information


The Transportation Security Administration has "requested that two pages of public, unclassified congressional testimony on airport security from a hearing last November be expunged from media archives," Congressional Quarterly reports. Some outlets are complying, while others—including CQ—are not.

I found the redacted version of McNeil's testimony online with little effort. To see the whole thing, terrorists and curiosity-seekers might have to buy a CQ subscription or pay for a Lexis-Nexis account; so armed, they can learn one part of the "training resolution" for "explosive trace detection" and they can read a description of just how some undercover agents managed to smuggle guns past screeners in Rochester. Or if they're cheap, they can just read CQ's free online article on the controversy, which spills the beans:

TSA undercover security agents easily smuggled small handguns past Rochester airport screeners by taping them to their thighs with Ace bandages and claiming they had just had surgery.

"The screener assumed the agent was being truthful and would not have thought of asking her to remove a surgical bandage," McNeil testified. "Moreover, the screener pointed out that she had never seen, or been trained to detect a small semi-automatic handgun by feeling it through layers of a bandage.

"The agent told us afterward that part of the reason this particular test was done was to show training weaknesses. We would welcome some guidance and training in this particular area," McNeil added.

Not to state the obvious or anything, but it would make a lot more sense to seek us outsiders' input on how to resolve the putative problem than to try to hide it from our prying eyes. Especially when the information is already there in the public record. But if there's one thing we've learned about the TSA, it's that it isn't particularly interested in what the public has to say—except, of course, when it's interrogating us.