Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Lawmakers want all airport workers screened by TSA

Some U.S. lawmakers are calling for closer scrutiny of airport workers. They want more background checks, and they want all airport employees to be screened for weapons when they arrive for work each day.

An article in the Federal Times says that the lawmakers' concerns arise not from a specific plot "but rather recent arrests that point to potential holes in security."
"This is the weakest link" in aviation, said Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., a senior member of the House Homeland Security Committee who has proposed a bill that would require airport employees to be screened.
That bill would require:
  • The Transportation Security Administration to issue rules within a year to screen all airport employees.
  • Airports to comply with the TSA order within three years.
  • TSA to start a pilot within four months at five airports that would test employee screening.
One airport operations director quoted in the article calls the provisions of the bill "an unworkable idea that could create gridlock." Nevertheless, the article goes on to note:
TSA has already moved ahead with extra security. The agency this fall adopted policies requiring that everyone working at airports — from taxi drivers to gift shop clerks — be checked for criminal history, terrorist ties and immigration violations. Previously, only employees with access to secure areas faced the checks.

TSA also has started assigning teams of screeners to roam secured areas, doing random searches of airport employees, said Earl Morris, TSA general manager for field operations.
But TSA does not screen airport workers who already have passed background checks. Rep. Lowey feels this is a loophole through which airport workers "could become unwilling accomplices if a terrorist uses them to sneak dangerous materials into an airport."

Source: Lawmakers: Screen airport workers - Federal Times

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