DECEMBER 18, 2009
In the latest of many shameful lapses, the federal agency in charge of securing the nation’s transportation system approved background checks for a dozen illegal immigrants working in sensitive areas of a busy U.S. airport.
The illegal aliens, from Central America and Mexico, worked in operational areas of Stewart International Airport, a 2,400-acre facility located about 60 miles north of New York City. Stewart is a major passenger airport for the state’s mid-Hudson region that also handles large quantities of cargo and serves as a military field.
The illegal aliens all had security badges approved by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the agency created after the 2001 terrorist attacks mainly to protect airlines. The TSA’s national background check failed to detect the fake Social Security numbers and other bogus documents provided by the illegal immigrants to obtain clearance.
So the embattled 43,000-member Homeland Security agency, which has received hundreds of millions of dollars from Congress to fulfill its mission, granted the undocumented aliens “trusted agent” security badges. This allowed them to work at an airport warehouse business and access key operational areas. An alert airport employee noticed the suspicious documents and reported the illegal aliens.
This sort of negligence is par for the course for the TSA, which has come under fire in recent years for leaving airplanes extremely vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Just last month the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General revealed that the TSA is failing to ensure the security of tens of thousands of cargo packages transported daily in the bellies of passenger planes, leaving aircraft at risk of a terrorist attack.
That probe also found that workers who handle the cargo had not received the required background checks or training, further adding to the security crisis. Previous Inspector General probes have over the years revealed similar problems in the TSA’s dismal air cargo security system and exposed dozens of security failures in other crucial areas nationwide.
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