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"Screening of U.S. airport workers often lax"

Friday, February 10, 2017

Screening of airport workers often lax
By Kendra Conlon
WTSP-TV Ch 10 (CBS), Tampa Bay (FL)

Would-be terrorists are working in our airports. That's the warning from a new 
Homeland Security report which uncovers security weaknesses with airport 
employees that are putting all of us at risk for an attack from within.

"We don't know what their background is and what they're capable of," worries 
passenger Troy Jack.

Travelers like Jack say we blindly put our trust in airport workers to keep us 
safe. There are some 900,000 employees at the country's 450 federally-run 

And the new Homeland Security report finds many workers are able to get around 
traditional screening and gain access to secure areas. It slams the gaps in 
security, warning they can be exploited by lone wolf attackers and terrorists.

"Workers within an airport are not the highest-paid people in the world. They 
are susceptible to financial bribing," says Brian Gould, a retired Army Special 
Forces soldier who specializes in military intelligence training as president 
of Applied Solutions Consulting.

"Tampa is a great airport. They've done very well. But how many workers who are 
working on the construction site are actually cleared already? There are 
several hundred workers on the improvement site right now. How many of them 
were actually cleared, and they're within shooting distance, driving distance, 
bombing distance of Tampa," Gould says.

He believes an airport security overhaul is long overdue.

"I think they should be very concerned. The fact we're still having this 
discussion in 2017 is concerning. 9/11 was 16 years ago. It was an airport 
aviation issue. We really haven't done a lot of improvements," Gould says.

The report notes that in 2015, 73 workers with links to terrorism were 
currently or recently employed at US airports, posing threats like attempting 
to detonate a bomb at an airport, and smuggling of guns, drugs or explosives. 

"We do need to make sure these employees are very well screened," says 
passenger Miriam Mendez.

The DHS report says increasing background checks and screenings of airport 
workers isn't enough. One recommendation is reducing the number of employee 
access points.

Other suggestions:

*Airport operators and air carriers should work to better educate aviation 
workers on their role in mitigating insider threats and securing access to 
sensitive areas of airports.

*Airports and the Transportation Security Administration should reassess 
credentialing practices to ensure that individuals with access to secure and 
sterile areas of airports are held to stringent standards and are regularly 
reassessed for the risk an individual may pose to aviation security.

*Airports and air carriers should examine the costs and feasibility of 
expanding the physical screening of employees.

*DHS and airports should work to identify advanced technologies for securing 
employee access and work to further reduce the number of employee access points.

*TSA should implement the FBI's RapBack Service for all credentialed aviation 
worker populations in order to more rapidly detect insider threats and leverage 
the greater resources of DHS and the intelligence community to educate its own 
personnel on the threats facing aviation security and how the agency can better 
mitigate the insider threat.

*TSA should identify airports where the relationship between the agency and its 
stakeholders is in need of improvement and ensure that communication between 
relevant stakeholders and TSA is both regular and productive.

*TSA should increase covert testing of Playbook operations at airports across 
the U.S., in order to measure current levels of security effectiveness and 
provide recommendations to airports and air carriers on how security can be 
improved. Testing results should be shared with airport operators and air 

*TSA should strategically target its use of employee screening operations. DHS 
should be the lead interagency coordinator on insider threats at airports 
across the United States, through its Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) 
component, while working with other relevant entities such as the Department of 
The report finds only three airports, Orlando, Miami and Atlanta, screen 100 
percent of their employees and their belongings every day before allowing them 
into secure areas.

Tampa International Airport didn't respond with a comment for the story.
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