Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

October 20, 2006

TSA starts random checks of airport workers

Filed under: Aviation Security — by Christian Beckner on October 20, 2006

This is a smart response to the August aviation plot in the UK, tackling what many experts have believed to be the biggest vulnerability in the commercial aviation security regime today:

Airport workers are finding themselves subject to surprise screenings as the government issues new security tactics at airports nationwide. The changes are a direct response to this year’s foiled plot to blow-up America-bound airplanes.

Baggage handlers, gate agents, ramp workers and other airport employees who in the past were not subject to any security searches before the enter restricted and secure areas are now being targeted in this latest government effort to make airports safer.

….Sources say that the London terror plot foiled in August prompted U.S. officials to ramp up security after United Kingdom officials disclosed that some of the men arrested were airport workers. Until today, airport workers in the U.S. only went through an initial background check in order to get hired.

There probably aren’t sufficient resources today to have comprehensive inspection procedures for airport workers, and it probably wouldn’t deliver a high security return-on-investment. But developing a system of random spot checks is an effective investment, and can act as a strong deterrent against a plot that involves an airport ‘insider’ as a conspirator or accomplice. This should be quickly expanded nationwide, and random checks should take place not just at entry doors and gates but also at places deep inside the airport, and include the air cargo and general aviation areas within major airports – not just the passenger terminals.

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