Bomb Parts Pass Checkpoints at 21 U.S. Airports

ByABC News
March 16, 2006, 11:32 PM

March 17, 2006 -- -- Government investigators conducting undercover tests at 21 U.S. airports were able to get bomb materials through screening machines at all of them, ABC News has learned.

The investigators sent through components of an improvised explosive device and common household chemicals, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office, the watchdog arm of Congress. Undercover agents carried a small amount of material that would need to be properly combined on the other side of the checkpoint to create a bomb. The material got past screeners and X-ray machines in every one of the 21 airports tested.

"I think security is still not where it needs to be," said Jerry Hauer, an ABC News consultant and terrorism expert. "At the end of the day, you can still get all the components through security that you need to assemble a bomb on the other side."

The report was ordered by Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., who said he wanted to see "how penetrable the passenger screening system is to explosive devices." He called the results "very disappointing."

Mica would not comment on any of the specifics of the report because it is classified.

Covert tests are a key part of testing the security system and are conducted by the Department of Homeland Security, which admitted it worried about explosive devices slipping through. It recently cut back on the list of banned items so screeners could concentrate on finding bomb-making material.

Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, hidden weapons and simulated bombs have made it through checkpoints in hundreds of tests.

The Transportation Security Administration, the government agency that handles security at American airports, issued a statement in response to the report.

"While random items commonly found under a kitchen sink could conceivably be concocted into an IED [improvised explosive device], there are so many things that could go wrong with this hypothetical scenario that we find it highly implausible," it said.

A spokesman from the Department of Homeland Security said the study involved several investigators bringing different components through security screening checkpoints.

ABC News' Dennis Powell, Ari Meltzer and Lisa Stark contributed to this report.