March 28, 2007, - 1:24 pm
By Debbie Schlussel
The headline on the cover of today’s USA Today is a lot of hype and mostly false:
As I’ve written so very many times, airport workers are not screened the way passengers are and–in fact–most are not screened at all. And because they are not screened, the time-consuming, annoying TSA screening of passengers is a complete waste of time.
As I noted, earlier this month, employees at Orlando’s airport were caught with a cache of weapons that they carried on board a flight to Puerto Rico. They were able to do so because airport employees are not screened by the TSA or anyone else. As I also noted, a large number of Muslim employees (many of whom openly despise America) work at airports throughout the country and could easily get weapons on a flight for the purpose of fomenting a terrorist attack.
And a close reading of the USA Today front-pager shows that neither Congress, nor airports, nor the TSA are willing to do what is necessary to screen all airport workers right away–which they should be doing. In fact, an airport lobbyist is working against this measure, claiming it would be “too expensive.”
And the “boost” the TSA is claiming, regarding checks on airport workers?
They’re just going to have a “surge” for a few days at several airports. That won’t work because airport workers will find out when the “surge” inspectors–air marshals and TSA screeners–are there. They’ll wait to sneak in any contraband and weaponry until afterward (just like sports pros who generally know when they will and won’t be “randomly” tested for steroids).
Congress is waiting until next month to vote on a bill that will only require the TSA to screen employees at five airports and only for a six-month test. Why? What is it that needs to be tested? Airport employees should go through lines like everyone else. The mechanics of that are already in place for passengers. There’s no need to reinvent or re-test the wheel.
In the meantime, with this giant loophole still open, airline passengers are more unsafe than ever.
Teams of screeners, air marshals and inspectors will go from airport to airport, spending several days at a time searching workers and checking airplane cabins, agency chief Kip Hawley told USA TODAY. . . .
“It’s emerging as a big issue,” airport lobbyist Joel Bacon told an aviation forum Monday. Screening workers would impose “horrendous” costs – billions to buy and run inspection machines – and tie up workers, he said.
Not screening airport workers is “a terrible vulnerability,” said aviation consultant Douglas Laird, former security chief at Northwest Airlines. “The system is totally wide open,” said Laird, who advocates screening of all airport workers. “It’s long overdue.”
The House of Representatives is likely to pass a bill next month that would require the TSA to go beyond “surges” and screen all employees at five airports in a six-month test, said Dena Graziano, a spokeswoman for House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss.
The TSA has required more airport workers to pass background checks and last year started randomly screening the workers. In its first “surge,” the agency sent 160 security officers to five airports in south Florida and Puerto Rico for several days after the Comair employees were arrested.
Hawley said the extra TSA workers will “really be noticeable” to deter potential terrorists.
That means they’ll “really be noticeable” when they leave, and potential terrorists get the all-clear sign. All airport workers must be screened all of the time. Until then, you are taking your life in your own hands (and terrorists’ hands) every time you fly.
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