Here's Why You Shouldn't Worry Too Much About the TSA's 95% Failure Rate


In the dim forgotten days of 2001, 19 terrorists took control of four planes, attacking the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and crashing the fourth plane in a field in Pennsylvania. I’m sure you heard about it, it was in all the papers.

Okay, I’m being a bit too cynical – I’m an old curmudgeon. But the attacks of September 11, 2001, hit the U.S. and hurt it, and put us into a war that, contrary to the apparent belief of the current administration, continues today.

Everyone who flies anywhere now feels the effects, as they go through the TSA screening process. This would be bad enough, but recently there was a story reported that an internal Inspector General report showed that out of 70 tries to get bombs or weapons through the screening process, 67 succeeded. That’s roughly 19 times out of 20.

This is not a reassuring observation. Especially if you’re about to take a plane trip.

On the other hand, there have been only two attempts to destroy a plane in flight to the U.S. since then, and both were unsuccessful. If it’s that easy to get a bomb or a gun on a plane, why aren’t we seeing more?

As King Mongkut said, “It’s a puzzlement.”

A few years ago, Bruce Schneier coined the useful term “security theater.” Security theater is security steps taken, not because they provide much actual improvement in security, but so that there is an appearance of increased security. Many people have called the TSA security “security theater.”

And yet, well, there haven’t been any successful attacks on U.S. planes since 9/11. How to explain this?