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"Fake bomb eludes NY airport test: Facility's security measures fail in 5 of 7 trials"


 
Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Fake bomb eludes airport test 
Albany facility's security measures fail in 5 of 7 trials, mostly at the
passenger checkpoint  
By BRENDAN J. LYONS
The Albany (NY) Times Union


COLONIE -- Federal inspectors were able to slip a fake bomb through a
checkpoint at Albany International Airport during a test of the facility's
Transportation Security Administration screeners, according to individuals
familiar with the incident.

The unannounced inspection by TSA officials took place early last week. The
airport's security measures failed in five of seven tests, most of the
problems occurring at the passenger checkpoint, the sources said.
   
In one test, TSA inspectors hid the components of a fake bomb in carry-on
luggage that also contained a bottle of water. Passengers are prohibited
from carrying containers holding more than three ounces of liquids, gels or
aerosols through airport checkpoints.

The screeners at Albany International confiscated the water bottle but
missed the bomb. In all, the inspectors slipped four banned items through
the main checkpoint during the test, sources said.

The TSA, which took over security at the nation's commercial airports after
the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, conducts random tests of its workforce on a
regular basis and failures are common, officials said.

Paul Varville, the TSA's security director at Albany International, could
not be reached for comment.

Ann Davis, a TSA spokeswoman, declined to discuss the circumstances of the
covert test at Albany International.

"We don't discuss the results because they tend to paint an inaccurate
picture of the competency of our work force," she said. "The tests are
designed to be incredibly difficult and TSA does anticipate a fair level of
failure."

Screeners who flunk the test routinely receive immediate training on the
mistakes to improve their detection skills, according to officials familiar
with the spot checks.

Last October, the Star-Ledger newspaper of Newark, citing unnamed federal
security officials, reported screeners at Newark Liberty International
Airport flunked 20 of 22 tests, including failing to detect bombs and guns
in luggage at checkpoints.

The TSA responded to the report by launching an internal investigation in
which federal employees were interrogated about whether they had leaked the
results, the newspaper said.

Not all of the TSA's checks are done at passenger checkpoints. In some
instances, TSA inspectors try to gain access to restricted airport areas and
see how many employees they can get by before someone asks to see or verify
their credentials.

At two airports in Houston last month, TSA officials swarmed the facilities
as security and "behavior detection" officers conducted random screening of
approximately 5,200 employees and passengers at boarding gates, according to
the TSA.

Five employees with expired airport security badges were found as were two
who did not have credentials. The expired badges were confiscated and the
employees in violation were escorted off airport property, according to a
TSA news release.

Davis said security screeners who fail tests must undergo extra training in
addition to annual recertification exams.

"These covert tests conducted by security personnel simply augment their
training regimen," Davis said. 

On the web:

TSA Speak - Partie Deux
http://www.californiaaviation.org/weblog/2007/04/tsa-speak-partie-deux

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