(NEW YORK) — New technology for airport security, which airlines and some members of Congress want to be deployed sooner rather than later, may not be “ready yet,” according to the head of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
TSA Administrator David Pekoske tells ABC News that the new Computed Tomography scanners, which will provide 3-D images of the contents of a suitcase, needs more testing so, “we know it does what it’s advertised to do.”
After Pekoske presented his “State of the TSA” speech Wednesday, he told ABC News, “I don’t want to deploy a whole bunch of systems out there and find out that they don’t work. And I would say, we’re not sure it’s ready yet.”
The new high-tech machines are being tested at two airports, Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and Boston’s Logan International Airport.
In recent months, Pekoske faced questions over why his agency wasn’t moving faster to deploy the security equipment.
At a hearing in November, members of the House Homeland Security Committee pressed Pekoske on his testing schedule, which will be followed by an update of computer software. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, the chairman of the committee, asked him during this hearing, “Why can’t we do it the other way around? Deploy the machines and do an update later?”
At the time, Pekoske said he was worried about being able to move the same number of passengers through the system with the new machines.
Pekoske suggested to ABC News that the new scanners will likely be deployed starting in the new federal fiscal year, sometime after Oct. 1.
Pekoske also spoke about the TSA being increasingly concerned about preventing self-radicalized individuals from targeting air travel.
“It’s really people that can get self-radicalized by looking at information on the internet and, then, having access to materials and supplies that are commercially available here — effect an attack on the system,” Pekoske said. He noted that the perpetrators of two recent attacks in New York, a truck ramming in October and a subway bombing in December, “weren’t people that were on anybody’s scope at that point in time.”
He went on to add that the TSA still focuses “on the organized terrorist groups as well. So we really need to keep our eye on both, make sure that our security systems keep both in mind.”
The TSA continues to rely on so-called “behavior detection” — identifying visual and verbal cues indicative of ill intent — to spot self-radicalized would-be terrorists, as well as members of organized terror organizations who warrant a second look from TSA.
Pekoske defended the behavior detection program last fall after a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found no evidence that the cues identified by TSA “reliably identify deception.”
However, Pekoske also said participation by the public, like adhering to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s “if you see something, say something” campaigns, is key in warding off self-radicalized individuals before they attack. It’s why the TSA has tweaked its motto from “not on my watch” to “not on our watch.”
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