Watchdog raises concerns TSA screening dogs aren’t effective

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“TSA cannot show deployment and use of its PSC teams provide effective security at passenger screening checkpoints,” the Homeland Security Department’s inspector general wrote, referring to passenger screening canines.

“As a result, our Nation’s aviation system and the traveling public could be at risk of a catastrophic event caused by an undetected explosive device.”

Among the issues the inspector general identified are the dogs’ inability to detect certain explosives or explosive devices. The specifics were redacted from the report.

“We also found canines on TSA’s PSC teams may not detect REDACTED,” the report said. “This is due to canines having inherent limitations, restricting TSA’s ability to train PSCs to detect all significant explosive threats.”

The report also raised concerns that local TSA managers were more concerned about keeping checkpoint lines moving than using the dogs most effectively.

Some officials, it said, “used canines to expedite passenger screening at checkpoints rather than to detect explosive odors as intended.” After being sniffed by a dog, passengers would walk through a metal detector rather than a body scanner. That “introduces greater risk because the metal detector only identifies metallic objects whereas the other equipment identifies all anomalies on a person’s body.”

A CNN report in December revealed separate whistleblower concerns with TSA prioritizing speed over security.

The report does not address whether even a dog that is ineffective at detection would have a deterrent effect.

In a memo attached to the report, TSA Administrator David Pekoske did not dispute that the dogs are unable to detect certain explosives but defended the program.

He said he “strongly disagrees with the report’s” two conclusions that the public is at risk of a catastrophic incident and funds spent on the program could have been put to better use elsewhere.

“TSA PSCs provide a valuable detection and deterrence capability in TSA’s layered approach for transportation security that cannot be duplicated by technology,” Pekoske wrote.

The TSA did not respond to a request from CNN for further comment on the report.

The report said TSA has up to 422 dogs deployed nationwide at 47 locations, although many of those teams may not be certified and actively working. The report said the agency also funds dogs handled by state and local police.

Airport security officials have used dogs since the 1970s, the report said, but began using them at checkpoints after the 2009 failed underwear bombing attack onboard an aircraft on Christmas Day.

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