Based on visits to a number of federal courthouses I have long suspected that the people who run and man federal security are, to put it charitably, absolutely incompetent. No, not just absolutely incompetent, but "Security at the federal courthouse in The Matrix incompetent":
My experience with the Federal Protective Security Service, here in the hinterlands outside Washington, is that its agents tend to fall into two categories: Gomer Pyles and Barney Fifes.
The Gomer Pyles are incredibly inalert and lackadaisical, waving me through with a smile or continuing to read the paper because I'm obviously a lawyer. They provide this level of attention to everyone else, including guys who look like extras from the cast of Deliverance, or StormGruppenFuehrers in the movie adaptation of The Turner Diaries. (I live in the south. In New Jersey, the Gomer Pyles would wave through guys who look like Paulie Walnuts.)
The Barney Fifes, on the other hand, are hyperalert and on the lookout for anything that could constitute A FEDERAL CRIMINAL OFFENSE! including suspiciously metallic cufflinks and belt buckles, which I must remove and screen even though I'm obviously a lawyer, and cellular telephones, which must be examined because the photos of my nieces and nephews stored therein could be evidence of a crime. The Barney Fifes also provide this level of scrutiny to old ladies who look like Clara Peller or Aunt Esther. Or who wear silly t-shirts.
My kingdom for a happy medium, something as vigilant, yet commonsensical, as security at a medium-sized airport.
Anyway, returning to the topic of competence, I'd long suspected these people were incompetent. And my suspicion was correct!
[T]he GAO's probe included such troubling findings as a report that 73 percent of FPS contract guards lacked valid [X-ray and metal detector] certifications and a report that one security guard allowed a baby to pass through an X-ray machine — breaches in security he said make the country vulnerable to terrorist attack. Lieberman said the guard, who was later fired, filed a lawsuit and won after FPS could not provide sufficient proof that he had been properly trained. The GAO report found that a vast majority of security guards received no X-ray or metal detection training at all.
And they get no training in anything else. Federal security employees, Senators such as Joe Lieberman are shocked! Shocked! SHOCKED!!! to find, are all but picked off welfare lines, given a gun and a badge, and told to look busy in case Jesus comes. Or Joe Lieberman, as the case may be.
And it's an old problem, older than you might think. While the annoyance of entering a federal building has only increased since 2001, the massive federal security apparatus, told to look busy but not trained in how to be busy, dates back to the 1995 Oklahoma City federal building attack by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols.
Fifteen years later, it's still easy to waltz through a federal building carrying explosives. But your cell phone will be impounded. Why it's almost as though Congress, and the bureaucrats who serve them, cared more about the appearance of safety in federal buildings than the reality. As though they were trying desperately to look busy.
In case Jesus comes.