Nov 212010
 
 November 21, 2010  Govt, Surveillance

From the Congressional Record for September 29, 2010:

Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, on January 8 of this year, I requested the Government Accountability Office to conduct followup tests of our Nation’s airport security screening procedures. Investigators attempted to smuggle bomb-making materials past security checkpoints in a number of airports around the country. This is something the GAO has done for Congress on several occasions since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

It is an important reality check for Congress to find out exactly how effective or ineffective the Transportation Security Administration’s screening procedures are. TSA has spent a lot of time and money trying to prevent future terrorist attacks, and we are, no doubt, safer in many ways than we were before 9/11. However, it is important to cut through the talking points and the press releases. We need to test the system in real time with real people carrying potentially destructive materials once in a while to find out how vulnerable we still are.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration, which is now responsible for keeping airline passengers safe, does not want you to know the results of these tests. In fact, the administration classified almost every word of the GAO report as “secret.” These sorts of classification decisions ought to be made only when the information is actually sensitive for national security reasons. The power to classify information should not be used merely to hide information that might be embarrassing to the administration.

I understand that certain details of how GAO investigators did what they did should not be made public. No one wants to give the terrorists a roadmap of how to attack us again. I do not want to do that, and the GAO investigators do not want that to happen.

That is why I asked them to draft a report that did not include those sorts of details so that a declassified version could be released to the public. The problem, however, is that the Obama administration classified the report anyway.

The key data that should be public are the results. Did the GAO investigators succeed in penetrating our airport security checkpoints? If so, how many times? How many times did they fail? The public has a right to know those bottom-line results.

Those results are not going to help terrorists figure out how to better attack us, and they certainly are not going to give them any more motivation to try than they already have.

Keeping the results secret will accomplish one thing, however. It will ensure that the public has no idea how effective our airport screening strategy actually is, and it seems that is the way the Obama administration likes it.

Therefore, I am asking the TSA Administrator to personally come to our secure facilities here in the Senate and explain his decision. Several of my colleagues joined me in asking the GAO to do this work, including the chairs and the ranking members of the Homeland Security Committee in both the House and the Senate. I invite them to join us and help resolve this situation.

We need to work together to make sure that the entire Congress and the public are aware of the results of this important work while maintaining the security of information that truly needs to remain secure.

I yield the floor.

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