It’s another story for the crazy but true files. The Los Angeles Times is reporting that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) – you know, those folks who are supposed to be keeping our nation’s airports and flyers safe – cleared 73 people with possible ties to terrorism through background checks.

The people – all of whom eventually become airport workers – were identified as having “possible terrorism-related information” in a classified federal database that the TSA could not normally access. The inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security brought the information to light after he asked the National Counterterrorism Center to check more than 900,000 active aviation workers against a classified intelligence database called the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment. It contains confirmed and unconfirmed information about people with potential terrorist links.

The inspector general included the information in a scathing new report that contained examples of the TSA’s continued failure to keep America’s airports safe. Examples include inadequate baggage screening, hiring of convicted criminals, faulty records, questionable spending, and narcotics smuggling and human trafficking by TSA employees.

As an industry-leading background screening agency, we make it our mission to stay on the cutting edge of technology and
compliance for background check issues. That’s why it’s surprising when an agency like the TSA who is tasked with such an important task continues to fail at screening employees. We’ve examined TSA screening failings before and explained that one of the reasons that employees who shouldn’t be allowed to work in our nation’s airports keep slipping through the cracks is that the agency has very little oversight over post-hire screening policies and practices.

“There is no federal requirement that the baggage handlers, mechanics, cleaning crews and other employees with access to the airfield and other secure areas get screened as passengers do. They are typically subject to a criminal background check and might get randomly screened while at work. By contrast, those who work at the gates, such as restaurant employees, pass through TSA security checkpoints.” – as reported by CNN

Although the LA Times article didn’t explain why these employees with possible ties to terrorist groups were still hired, previous articles have pinpointed cost to be an issue. A government report shows that costs for full screening of airport and airline employees could run between $5.7 to $14.9 billion for the first year. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) budget for 2015 is $7.3 billion.

Cost is always going to be an issue whenever it comes to discussing pre-emptive policies that could prevent possible disasters. There will always be someone who doesn’t believe the disaster will ever happen – and in many cases, that person is correct. The trouble with thinking and operating that way for the TSA is twofold:

One) The agency continues to spend billions of dollars per year on passenger screening and passengers don’t have the same access or security clearance to vulnerable airport operations unlike airline workers.

Two) The damage being done to the reputation and efficacy of the agency will continue to undermine how many dollars will be budgeted to it. In other words, if you continue to look and act like a circus, your funders will start paying you peanuts. And then you’ll really be in trouble.

Background checks are the single-most effective way to keep your employees, workplaces, visitors and clients safe. And if one – or 73 – of them turn up names on a possible terrorist watch list, you’d think someone would stop and say, “Something’s not right here.”

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