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One member of Congress called the findings “disturbing.”

Jess McHugh
November 09, 2017

Despite the seemingly strenuous security screening at U.S. airports, the TSA overwhelmingly fails to detect illicit objects and substances — approximately 80 percent of the time, according to a new report.

Undercover operatives from the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General (OIG) were able to smuggle contraband through U.S. airports at a high rate, according to a new report shared with a Congressional committee.

Related: What Travelers Need to Know About New TSA Security Measures

The DHS did not publicly release the rate at which the TSA failed, but one insider told ABC News that an 80-percent failure rate was “in the ballpark.”

“I think I speak for all of us when I say that we found that briefing disturbing,” Committee Chairman Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), said at a hearing following the briefing, NBC News reported.

Air passengers have long grumbled about the annoyances of TSA security lines and the increasingly onerous restrictions imposed when flying. Travelers now need to take out liquids, food, and electronics larger than a cell phone from their bags before entering security scanners at many airports, all in the goal of preventing dangerous substances and weapons from entering airports and aircraft.

“We take the OIG’s findings very seriously and are implementing measures that will improve screening effectiveness at checkpoints,” said TSA Administrator David Pekoske in a statement. “We are focused on staying ahead of a dynamic threat to aviation with continued investment in the workforce, enhanced procedures, and new technologies.”

The failure rate is actually an improvement from a similar undercover operation undertaken by the DHS in 2015, when operatives found the TSA had a failure rate of 95 percent. In that test, operatives successfully smuggled both fake weapons and fake explosives through airport security.

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