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"House Subcommittee Approves Bill to Create Airport Worker Screening Pilot Program"

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Subcommittee clears bill to step up screening of airport workers 
By Otto Kreisher

Alarmed by a number of recent incidents of criminal activity by airport
workers, a House Homeland Security subcommittee Tuesday unanimously approved
legislation ordering the Transportation Security Administration to conduct
tests of different ways to require security screening for employees entering
secure areas of airports. 

The Homeland Security Transportation, Security and Infrastructure Protection
Subcommittee approved the bill (H.R. 1413) on a voice vote at the urging of
Chairwoman Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Texas, and Ranking Member Daniel Lungren,
R-Calif. The panel also approved unanimously an amendment offered by
Jackson-Lee to broaden the scope of the pilot program. 

The original measure was co-authored by Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., a member of
the full committee, and Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Fla., a subcommittee

"This legislation seeks to ensure that people who have access to secure
areas are trustworthy individuals who are not a threat to the traveling
public," Jackson-Lee said. She cited four recent cases at different airports
in which individuals used their status as authorized employees to get guns,
drugs and other illegal objects onto airliners or cargo jets. 

Those activities could just as easily have been terrorist acts, the
chairwoman said. 

Lungren noted that despite all the efforts made since Sept. 11, 2001, to
improve air travel security, "this still remains one of our foremost
security concerns." 

The Aviation Transportation Security Act of 2002 called for security
screening of everyone going into secure parts of airports, but TSA has never
acted on it. 

The bill as introduced called for pilot programs at five airports, including
at least two large hub facilities, required the same screening standards as
apply to airline passengers, with at least two airports using private
security workers rather than TSA screeners. It also required vulnerability
assessments of the airports used in the tests and a report to Congress
within 90 days of implementation of the program. 

Jackson-Lee's amendment expanded the program to seven airports but allowed
only one to use private security screeners and they had to be in place
before the test began. It also authorized TSA to use alternative methods of
screening the workers, including biometrics, behavior recognition
procedures, trained dogs, video camera and increased vetting and training of
workers allowed into secured areas. 

The amendment also increases the scope of the assessment of security
procedures required at each airport chosen for the pilot programs to include
any increase in congestion, the number of additional screeners required and
the rate at which prohibited items are discovered on the employees being

Jackson-Lee said there may be additional changes to the bill before it goes
before the full committee.

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