JUNE 13, 2007
Although the federal agency responsible for protecting the nation’s transportation system recently announced a much-needed plan to screen airport workers and vendors, the security threat lingers because most still go unchecked.
An array of serious airport security lapses finally pushed the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the 43,000-member agency created after the 2001 terrorist attacks, to increase screenings for airline and airport employees as well as outside vendors that routinely enter airports.
Announced with great fanfare, the plan supposedly began last fall at larger airports and has been fully implemented at most of the nation’s 450 commercial facilities. According to TSA officials the security measures have been expanded to include even aircraft service vehicles, construction workers and anyone authorized to drive in secure airport areas.
Security officers are deployed throughout airports to inspect workers, their property and vehicles and to assure they don’t have items that may pose a security threat. One high-ranking TSA official in Memphis called it a measure that adds to the agency’s “strong layered approach to aviation security.”
The reality is, however, that vendor trucks carrying airplane meals, water, construction equipment, newspapers and other supplies are routinely admitted to airports with little or no screening. In fact, an admitted Al Qaeda operative, legitimately employed as an airport vendor’s truck driver, has already been convicted after admitting he used his job as a cover to observe security weaknesses and strategies at various airports after the 2001 attacks.
The Airline Pilots Security Alliance http://secure-skies.org/index.php, created after the September 11 attacks, has documented the dismal security at airports around the country. Thousands of active and retired airline pilots operate the group which strives to improve aviation security and deter terrorism. Besides revealing the TSA’s latest flawed security plan, the group has exposed how vulnerable the nation’s smaller airports are to terrorist infiltration because they are the least secure, often protected by fence only six feet high with no barbed wire on top.
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