The investigators who were able to smuggle mock explosives and guns through TSA nearly 96 percent of the time were auditors who did not have specialized training, John Roth, the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security, testified before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee Tuesday.
“I will say that the testers we used are auditors—these are members of the OIG workforce, they don’t have any specialized background or training in this kind of work,” Roth said when questioned by Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) about the level of sophistication of the investigators testing the TSA systems.
Roth’s testimony appears to contradict past descriptions of the investigators — who, according to the leaked results of a recent IG report, were able to foil TSA security in 67 out of 70 trials — as “super-terrorist” “Red Teams.”
“Red Team testing of the aviation security network has been part of TSA’s mission advancement for 13 years,” DHS Sec. Jeh Johnson said in a statement last week when the report was first leaked and reported. “The numbers in these reports never look good out of context, but they are a critical element in the continual evolution of our aviation security.”
Later in the hearing Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), who has been calling for the administration to declassify the full inspector general report, pressed Roth on the description of these investigators as “Red Teams.”
Roth denied that the Office of the Inspector General uses “Red Teams” but noted that the term is one the TSA itself uses to conduct internal testing.
“The public is taking some comfort in the idea that this investigation was supposedly done by ‘super-terrorists’—is the term that’s reported in the media for the ‘Red Teams.’ So the ‘Red Teams’ are not yours? And this leaked report is yours?” Sasse asked.
Roth responded, “Again, I can’t confirm or deny any of the specific results or the specific methodology by which we did our testing. As I said, we don’t identify ourselves as ‘Red Teams.’ These are auditors that we use who are members of the inspector general’s office.”
Roth added that he was “disturbed” the IG’s report made it into the media and noted that the agency has launched an investigation into the source of the leak.
Following the hearing — which, incidentally, was interrupted by a bomb threat — Sasse expressed outrage at the lack of transparency.
“Washington hasn’t leveled with the American people and DHS is treating this like a PR crisis instead of a homeland security threat,” he said in a statement. “TSA’s recent 96 percent failure rate was not the result of sophisticated, so-called ‘Red Teams.’ The administration has an obligation to responsibly declassify the inspector general’s investigation and to publicly release everything else it knows about TSA’s failures.”