This post is also available in: עברית (Hebrew)
The US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is increasing random checks of airport and airlines staff who handle baggage and have clearances to bypass security checks.
This decision is an attempt to increase the security of American airports following a string of incidents that showcased weaknesses in the system. The TSA was shown to let weapons slip through security checks in authorised testing scenarios, as well as several instances over the last two years in which employees used access to restricted areas to smuggle weapons and launder money.
Jose Freig, American Airlines’ managing director of corporate security, wrote in a memo to employees that “we anticipate the random screening process to increase throughout December and during the 2016 calendar year.”
TSA spokesman Bruce Anderson decline to elaborate on how frequent these additional screening will be, but pointed to a 30 November statement by Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security, who said that the department “enhanced the continuous, random screening of airport/airline personnel in secure areas and encouraged U.S. airports to reduce employee access points.”
“The TSA Administrator and I have recently concluded that we need to double-down on these airport security efforts and will be consulting with airports and airlines to do so,” Johnson said.
Under the current system, thousands of employees can avoid waiting in security lines once they pass a security clearance background check and receive a Security Identification Display Area (SIDA) badge. The system is designed to ease the congestion at passenger checkpoints, but it has been previously abused.
In several instances employees carried weapons or “dirty” money on board of flights. Following the 13 November Paris attacks, the TSA is anxious to tighten security and prevent such instances from recurring.