Airports across the United States have suffered about 25,000 security breaches since November 2001, according to a House committee, citing information it says it received from the Transportation Security Administration.
The breaches - amounting to about seven a day, or about five per year at every airport - include everything from people who accidentally leave a bag on a checkpoint conveyor belt to those who purposefully evade security and get onto airplanes without proper screening.
A TSA spokesman did not contest the figure, but questioned its significance, saying all breaches are investigated and resolved. The agency said it did not have a breakdown of breaches by severity.
With around 25,000 of these incidents over a decade at more than 450 TSA-regulated airports, this amounts to just over five such incidents per airport per year, according to the TSA.
The breaches include:
- 14,322 breaches into secure entries, passages or other means of access to the secure side of the airport.
- Approximately 6,000 breaches involving a TSA screener failing to screen a passenger or a passenger's carry-on property, or doing either improperly.
- 2,616 instances involving an individual getting past the checkpoint or exit lane without submitting to all screening and inspections. Some 1,388 of these have occurred at the perimeter areas of airports.
The information was released by the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on national security, homeland defense and foreign operations in advance of a hearing Wednesday on airport perimeter security.
TSA spokesman Nicholas Kimball said the figures represent a "tiny fraction of 1% percent of the more than 5.5 billion travelers at the more than 450 airports nationwide that we have screened effectively since 9/11."
"We take every security incident seriously and take appropriate action accordingly which is why TSA keeps close track of all 'breaches' - a very broadly defined set of accidental or purposeful security violations, including those where an individual is 'caught in the act' and immediately apprehended," Kimball said in a statement.