The inspector general for Homeland Security is raising new questions of security after looking at six of the nation's busiest airports. Federal officials and the Chicago Department of Aviation declined to say whether O'Hare was one of the airports cited for underreporting security breaches.
Five of the six airport names were redacted. Only the Newark, New Jersey, airport was identified as the Transportation Security Administration was ripped on Capitol Hill Wednesday.
After a passenger walked passed a secured checkpoint at Newark's international airport to kiss his girlfriend goodbye, causing a shutdown of the country's 14th largest airport, New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg decided to have Homeland Security's inspector general identify what he called "gaping holes in our airport security system."
The result: A report concluding nearly half of the security breaches at the nation's top airports go unreported to TSA headquarters, making it more difficult to spot dangerous weaknesses in the system and fix them.
"TSA's got to be a lot smarter, leaner, and tougher, and we want to help them get there," said Rep. Mike Roger, (R)-Alabama.
"TSA's oversight for the process of screening employees did not ensure employees were fully screened," said DHS Inspector General Charles Edwards.
That hole allowed an illegal immigrant from Nigeria, Bimbo Olumuyiwa Oyewole, to work as a security supervisor at Newark's airport while using the identity of a New York City man who was murdered 20 years ago. Oyewole did not work for the TSA, but he had access to sensitive areas of the field including the tarmac.
And another man, Ram Porat, was arrested Sunday morning when he was found sitting in an empty Southwest Airlines plane at Nashville International Airport.
The Homeland Security hearings come just a week after the American aviation system nearly came under attack again by al-Qaida using new tactics and new bombs. This time, the plan devised by Yemen-based operative Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri was thwarted by the CIA before his bomb came near a U.S.-bound plane.
Chicago TSA officials say that the agency is in the process of following the inspector general's recommendations by developing a single definition of the term "security breach" to limit confusion. And, TSA is enhancing their data-tracking system to make sure that information from local and regional offices makes it to the national level.