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"TSA official says airport security is too predictable"
Tuesday, April 4, 2006
TSA official says airport security is too predictable
By Basil Talbott
Additional levels of security must be built into what has become the
nation's "overly rigid, static and predictable airline passenger system," a
top federal official testified Tuesday at a Senate hearing.
"Terrorists can more easily 'engineer around' these highly structured
defenses," Kip Hawley, director of the Transportation Security
Administration, told the Senate Commerce Committee. "If we follow the same
procedures everywhere, every time, we make it easier for terrorists to break
the security code," Hawley said.
Senate Commerce Chairman Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, inquired about reports that
GAO investigators had penetrated two levels of security and got bomb
materials through screening. Cathleen Berrick, director for homeland
security and justice for GAO, confirmed tests occurred but said the report
on them is classified.
Hawley said his agency now focuses more on finding improvised explosive
devices and continues to install bomb testing devices at airports.
TSA also has begun developing a plan to train screeners to use behavior
recognition techniques and have assigned employees trained in those
techniques at 10 high-risk airports, Hawley said. In a recent pilot program,
if a passenger was identified as exhibiting behaviors indicative of fear,
stress, and or deception, they were either referred to additional screening,
or referred for selective screening or an evaluation interview.
Berrick also cited other issues with baggage screeners including training
problems and a high turnover rate, reaching 50 percent for the system's
part-time workers, likely a result of low pay and work-related injuries.
Berrick said the TSA "must focus on deploying enhanced explosive detection
systems, including larger or smaller models depending on the needs of a
But Hawley said that the cost of in-line baggage checking systems, which
link the bomb testing equipment with baggage conveyor belts, make them
practical only at large airports.
Stevens and other committee members complained about inconveniences for
frequent fliers -- some citing their own experiences. Sen. John Ensign,
R-Nev., asked Hawley if a system could be devised to let occasional groups
go through security without a check on a random basis.
Hawley said a program to expedite screening of frequent fliers called
Registered Traveler is on schedule to begin this year.
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