US TSA warned Congress of terrorist threats in March

Washington DC
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Despite legislators issuing harsh rhetoric over the last few days at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), members of a US Congress committee were cautioned last March that terrorists continue to pose a threat to commercial aviation.

Several congressmen have condemned the US government's security oversight in the aftermath of a failed attempt on 25 December by a Nigerian national to destroy a Delta Air Lines Airbus A330 with explosives.

Rep John Mica says he finds it incredible that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and other federal agencies "could bungle this security situation, given the red flags raised by this suspected terrorist".

Mica highlights widespread reports that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's father had warned US embassy officials that his son was a threat.

But TSA as recently as March told members of the House of Representatives the risks of a terrorist attack on commercial aviation remained pronounced.

"Our nation's threat level for all commercial aviation operating in or destined for the United States remains at high or orange," said TSA acting administrator Gale Rossides. "Terrorists continue to pose a significant threat to the United States and focus on prominent infrastructure targets with the goal of producing mass casualties and significant economic aftershocks. The threats to us are real and evolving."

US President Barack Obama has ordered a comprehensive review of security procedures in the country, including screening methods and related technologies.

Rossides also told legislators in March TSA was using a portion of $1 billion in funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to improve explosives detection in passenger screening.

Mica remains unimpressed with TSA's efforts to use those technologies. "Development and deployment of explosive detection equipment continues to lag," he says.

The US Senate plans to hold its own set of hearings in January related to the attempted attack.

During a 28 December address Obama gave no specific timeframe for the completion of the security review, and the Department of Homeland Security could not immediately supply a deadline to complete the evaluation.