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- Jun 15, 2004
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Airport screeners bypassing security
Airport screeners bypassing security
***** written by: Deborah Sherman Date
DENVER 9 Wants to Know has uncovered a new policy that allows airport screeners at Denver International Airport to bypass the same security screening checkpoints that passengers have to go through.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) rolled out the new uniforms and new screening policy at airports nationwide on Sept. 11.
The new policy says screeners can arrive for work and walk behind security lines without any of their belongings examined or X-rayed.
"Lunch or a bomb, you can walk right through with it," said Mike Boyd, an aviation consultant in Evergreen. "This is a major security issue."
At DIA, 9NEWS videotaped a dozen TSA screeners walk through a side gate and enter the sterile area of the airport carrying backpacks, purses and lunch boxes. Nothing was screened. Sources tell 9Wants to Know, the reason for the security change may be tied to the new uniforms and badges. The old, white TSA uniforms had yellow cloth badges sewn on them. The new, blue uniforms have metal badges that set off alarms when screeners go through the checkpoints. Sources say the TSA is worried that the screeners will remove the badges while going through security and that they'll get lost or stolen.
The TSA says that is not the reason for the policy change.
"We have to put our resources where we believe the risk is greatest. Does it really make sense for the Transportation Security officers to spend time screening each other rather than focusing on the unknown out there?" asked Carrie Harmon, TSA public affairs manager. The TSA says the new policy is part of a risk-based security screening process where there are multiple layers of security.
"We have a finite amount of resources and we allocate those where we think the risk is greatest," said Harmon. "It's based on intelligence; it's based on knowledge of our people and our processes."
The TSA says its employees have background checks before they are hired. TSA policy says employees are supposed to report any other arrest, including an alcohol related arrest, within 24 hours or, due to circumstances beyond their control, as soon as possible after that.
An Aviation Direct Access Security Program team at airports can also search any employee in the airport at any time.
"TSA employees are subject to random, unpredictable screening," said Harmon.
Critics think it's important to also physically screen the TSA workers every day.
"A background check means nothing, absolutely nothing," said Boyd. "And a random screen is like getting an IRS audit. It means I can get through 80 percent of the time. How many people take a chance on that? It's the same thing." Harmon says while you can't ever totally eliminate risk, TSA officers are security professionals and deserve to be treated that way.
However, two TSA workers in Atlanta were arrested this year for smuggling drugs and cash past screening checkpoints onto airplanes. Other screeners nationwide have been caught stealing from passengers. At DIA this year, a screener got caught bringing a gun through the checkpoint. Under the TSA's current policy, that gun would have gone undetected inside the airport.
While screeners won't be subjected to searches, airline pilots will still have to go through security screening checkpoints.
Some passengers were surprised at the new policy for screeners.
"I think that this kind of thing is going to encourage the possibility of foul play. I think it's a real big mistake," said Jim Casey of Minneapolis. "I think it creates, especially when it becomes public knowledge, it becomes a really ridiculous loophole."
The new blue uniforms also have patches on the shoulder that depict a picture of an eagle, the twin towers, nine stars and 11 stripes.
It cost $12 million to outfit the TSA's 43,000 employees with the new uniforms and badges.
If you know of any government waste or a policy that seems questionable to you email Deborah Sherman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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