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Norfolk bag screeners work untrained

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Nov 25, 2001
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has confirmed that dozens of screeners inspecting baggage at Norfolk International Airport in Virginia were not trained to do the job.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported over the weekend that the 80 screeners, all part of an elite mobile unit hired by the TSA last spring, had as little as 15 minutes of training on the trace detection equipment used to swab bags for explosives at security checkpoints.

"They handed us a swab and told us to wipe the bags this way and put us to work," said an anonymous screener, quoted by the newspaper. "The whole thing took 10, 15 minutes tops."

A TSA official said the screeners did not receive training because they were part of a pilot program at Norfolk Airport created to develop the curriculum for future training. Furthermore, supervisors and security consultants were always on hand to monitor the baggage screening, the official said.

"They didn't read the machines on their own. They were always supervised," TSA spokesman Heather Rosenker said Monday.

Fully trained screeners dispatched
Rosenker also said fully trained bag screeners were being deployed Monday to Norfolk Airport and Gerald R. Ford International Airport in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

She said many of the Norfolk screeners who received the "abbreviated" training have gone back to passenger screening positions at other airports. The remaining screeners will complete their training starting September 2 at the Federal Aviation Administration and TSA training facility in Oklahoma City.

Rosenker noted that all of the Norfolk screeners received 40 hours of classroom training before they were deployed as part of the mobile screening unit.

The Transportation Department's Office of the Inspector General confirmed it had recently learned of the situation from Norfolk screeners who wrote to them to complain about the lack of training they were receiving to screen baggage.

Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge reacted to the news with concern.

"Fifteen minutes dealing with this fairly sophisticated technology is unacceptable. I hope it is an aberration," he told CNN. "It's just not the kind of training that is needed, nor is it the kind of story that inspires confidence with the traveling public."

Wait 'til they get to Richmond, VA. When I went through, the screeners didn't know if everyone had to be manually searched individually or just certain ones. There was a big argument among some of the screeners as to which was correct and a lot of people were ticked off that everyone was getting manually searched after going through the metal detector. :rolleyes: Basically, it went over about like a fart in a space suit.

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