In an end-of-the-year message sent after a year of harsh criticism and hours before a man with a bomb sailed through airport security and flew to the United States, the acting administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) boasted of the agency's "very good year" and cited "cutting edge" technological advancements and efforts by federal air marshals that were "keeping the skies safe."
The message made no mention of TSA snafus over 2009, including several highly critical reports by the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security and the inadvertent posting on the internet of confidential documents revealing airport security procedures.
And in the days since the message was posted, President Obama has ordered a comprehensive review of airport security because of the ease with which the so-called underwear bomber cleared security stations in Nigeria and the Netherlands which had been certified by the TSA.
"If 2009 was a great year for TSA, it gravely concerns me what is to follow in 2010," said federal air marshal Frank Terreri, who represents air marshals for the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association.
No federal air marshals were assigned to Northwest flight 253 on Christmas morning when Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab allegedly attempted to bring down the aircraft with a bomb sewn into his underwear, but failed because of a faulty detonator.
The message, sent on Dec. 24 at noon by acting TSA administrator Gale Rossides, said it was "an opportunity to reflect on our successes in 2009, because it was a very good year for TSA."
"[W]e are respected internationally for our security work," wrote Rossides, "and we are on the cutting edge with our technological advancements. For this, we can all be proud."
Federal officials are now considering spending billions of dollars to implement full body scan devices and machines that can detect the smell of explosives.
A TSA spokesperson, Kristin Lee, said it was accurate to state the TSA "is constantly moving forward to test and deploy advanced technologies to stay ahead of emerging threats."
Critics of the agency say it lags in developing new security approaches and too often focuses on past threats.
The TSA says, even before the Christmas Day bombing attempt, it had purchased 150 advanced imaging technology machines and secured funding for an additional 300 units in 2010.