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Investigators were able to smuggle bomb-making materials past security at 10 federal buildings, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office.
Once GAO investigators got the materials in the buildings, the report said, they constructed explosive devices and carried them around inside. For security reasons, the GAO report did not give the location of the buildings.
Security at these buildings and a total of about 9,000 federal buildings around the country is provided by the Federal Protective Service, a target of the probe.
The report was made available to The Associated Press in advance of a hearing Wednesday of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
"The findings of covert security tests conducted by GAO investigators are stunning and completely unacceptable. In post-9/11 America, I cannot fathom how security breaches of this magnitude were allowed to occur," said Maine Sen. Susan Collins, the top Republican on the committee. "These security lapses and others show a disturbing pattern by the Federal Protective Service of poor training, lapsed documentation, lax management, inconsistent enforcement of security standards and little rigor."
The GAO found other problems with guard training and reported that in one check of security, investigators found a guard asleep on the job after taking the painkiller Percocet. In another, they found a guard failed to recognize or did not properly X-ray a box carrying handguns at the loading dock of a facility.
"As we approach the eighth anniversary of 9/11, and 14 years after Oklahoma City, it is simply unacceptable that federal employees working within buildings under FPS’ protection, and the visitors who pass through them, are so utterly exposed to potential attack by terrorists and other enemies," Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, said in reference to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington and the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City.
Gary Schenkel, director of the Federal Protective Service, said in prepared testimony that when he arrived at the agency in April 2007 "it was apparent FPS was experiencing some serious challenges."
Schenkel said after he learned of the GAO findings he instructed regional directors to increase their inspections and report what actions they would take to address and correct problems with contract guards.
Earlier government investigations have raised similar concerns about the quality of security provided to federal buildings. FPS currently has a budget of about $1 billion, 1,200 full-time employees and about 13,000 contract security guards.
The Washington Post first reported on the GAO probe Tuesday night on its Web site.