Less than a month after a news outfit reported that dozens of airport employees around the country have potential ties to terrorists, officials from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) admit that only three airports in the United States require workers to undergo security checks. The astounding admission, delivered this week before Congress, comes on the heels of a number of cases involving gun and drug-smuggling schemes operated by airline employees at major airports, including those located in Atlanta, New York and San Francisco.
In all of the cases, airport workers used their security badges to access secured areas of their respective facilities without having to undergo any sort of check. As if this weren’t bad enough, last month government records obtained by the media revealed that 73 employees at nearly 40 airports across the nation were flagged for ties to terror in a June 2015 report from the DHS Inspector General’s Office.
The files identified two of them working at Logan International Airport in Boston, four at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and six at Seattle-Tacoma International in Washington State. Here’s the government’s explanation for letting the potential terrorists slip by; the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) didn’t have access to the terrorism-related database during the vetting process for those employees. You can’t make this stuff up!
Now we learn that only three of the nation’s 300 airports—Atlanta, Miami and Orlando—require employees to undergo security checks before work, even though there’s an epidemic of illicit activity among this demographic. The unbelievable stat was delivered by DHS officials testifying at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing this week. In the aftermath of the Belgium terrorist attacks, the hearing was scheduled to address efforts in this country to prevent attacks on passenger and freight targets that could lead to mass casualties. The head of TSA, Robert Neffenger, told lawmakers that the agency has increased the inspection of employees five-fold in the last five months but admitted improvements must be made and the nation’s airports will provide a report by the end of the month assessing their vulnerabilities.
That still doesn’t’ explain why only three of the country’s airports require employees to undergo security checks a decade and a half after the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Apparently DHS can’t afford it and doesn’t really need it. At least that’s what a little-known entity called the Aviation Security Advisory Committee determined last spring. Composed of individuals representing private-sector organizations affected by aviation security requirements, the committee typically meets four times a year and advises the TSA on aviation security matters.
The panel was established in 1989 after a terrorist attack on Pan Am flight 103 and members include representatives from various trade groups such as the Cargo Airline Association, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, the U.S. Travel Association and the Airport Consultants Council. These are the folks that are deciding crucial issues associated with airport security.
In a 2015 report the committee wrote that most airports can’t afford daily employee screening and, even if they could, it wouldn’t do much good. That’s because full screening wouldn’t “appreciably increase the overall system-wide protection,” according to the committee’s findings and “no single measure can provide broad-spectrum protection against risks or adversaries.” Furthermore, this group of aviation advisors concluded that daily screening of airport workers “is incapable of determining a person’s motivations, attitudes and capabilities to cause harm, among other limitations.” Under that ridiculous argument, airport security would be eliminated altogether for everyone.