Salt Lake Tribune: How safe is air travel? Who knows? TSA doesn’t Who knows how safe air travel is in the United States? The TSA doesn’t. Airport security is impossible to judge based on the agency’s haphazard data After airport security blunders enabled the 9/11 terrorists to kill nearly 3,000 people, Congress created the Transportation Security Administration to protect against attack in U.S. skies. To help analyze its progress, TSA says it decided to track how many potential weapons travelers surrender at each U.S. airport.But The Salt Lake Tribune found huge holes in that TSA data that raise questions about the information’s value in charting the effectiveness of airport security. For example, TSA stopped counting confiscated firearms for three years. In 2008, it quit counting eight of 13 major categories of banned items, including knives, ammunition and box cutters (the weapon used by 9/11 terrorists). The hit-and-miss data show TSA does not know how many total prohibited items are surrendered, so it cannot accurately track rates of such activity nationwide or at specific airports. "If TSA is continually changing the parameters of how they test, truly they have no idea of how they are doing," said Douglas Laird, head of an aviation-security consulting firm. He is the former security director of Northwest Airlines and a former Secret Service agent.But TSA says the data variations are not a big deal.