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Can TSA Secure the Nation’s Airports? Not Anytime Soon.

It seems to me that the TSA agents aren’t the well-trained “security specialists” that we need for our nation’s security. To be a screener, the requirements are:

  • Proof of U.S. citizenship
  • High school diploma, GED or equivalent; OR
  • At least one year of full-time work experience in security work or aviation screener work; or with x-ray technician work

Flying Jet

So, if you have one year work experience in the field, you don’t have to be a U.S. Citizen? Better yet, you can be a  non-citizen who dropped out of high school, as long as you’ve got that year in the field. The sarcasm is intended. (I do realize that this is most likely a typo, with the first and one of the second being requirements.)

It’s doesn’t seem that hard a position, looking at luggage all day for bombs, weapons, etc. In most cases, the employees are able to sit as bags are scanned.  As the line of defense between a bomb and an airplane, they don’t seem very stressed or vigilant, mostly talking nonsense with one another while travelers are held hostage in lines that wind through temporary barriers like a snake that’s lost the smell of its prey.

Not all agents are hooked into their own world; some are vigilant, seemingly in-charge of the mass chaos caused by the Crotch Bomber and the Shoe Bomber.  The training program must be intense as half the agents I’ve spoken with are uneducated urbanites that can’t string sentences together. Mostly, they’re worried about the stewards or stewardesses moving through the throng. There is training, and yes, they receive it. Transportation security screener candidates must successfully complete training, including:

  • 40 hours of classroom training
  • 60 hours of on-the-job training
  • A certification examination

Whoa. Hopefully this includes some sort of hand-to-hand combat or  weapons training (baton, asp, mace, etc)? How about crowd control? A course in screening what a terrorist would look like?  While I don’t expect the TSA to be paramilitary, I do expect at least some ability to respond & react. Is the TSA capable? What if a riot, or an attack takes place at an airport?  If not the TSA, then who? The city police force?

Airport Lines

No disrespect to the police, but they don’t seem qualified unless they’re in a major metropolitan area and have worked with, or in, a JTTF unit. When I think of the police force fighting terrorism, I’m sucked back to the footage of the two Los Angeles bank robbers, armed to the teeth with automatic weapons, wrapped in Aramid armor, walking down the center of a North Hollywood street. Their automatic weapons spitting mayhem, the rounds passing through squad cars the street with weapons spitting out rounds that went through squad car engine blocks. The LAPD,  overwhelmed by the firepower, had to commandeer weapons from a local gun shop with enough power to cut the gunmen down. Still, it was 44-minutes of terror on the streets as North Hollywood turned into a war zone.

While the bank heist was 12-years ago, the police weren’t able to call for any back-up, and they needed it as the shooters were armed with military ordinance. The National Guard, the Army, or any other military entity would be the obvious choice, yet none were contacted and none responded; after all, how would the on-scene police commander call in the coordinates for an AH-64 Apache strike? The two forces, the police and the military, can’t even communicate with one another; their radios are purposely set on different frequencies.

The TSA has fallen under scrutiny in the past months for acts committed by employees:.

  1. Five employees were suspended in December (prior to the Crotch Bomber’s escapade) for allowing the TSA’s procedure manual to somehow be posted online. The document was the procedure manual for TSA’s security screening personnel, outlining those exempt for screening, those to be screened closely, what to look for on certain individuals, what security credentials look like for various Federal Law Enforcement officers, high-risk targets that will always get screened, the spacing between bag screenings, etc. Every single page was stamped with:  “WARNING: This record contains sensitive security information … No part of this record may be disclosed to persons without a ‘need to know.”
  2. A security breach at Boston’s  Logan International, a couple is going to court for selling the identities of 16 TSA workers. The IDs were stolen by the woman’s niece, a contract worker in Human Relations for the agency. The Boston man and woman then sold the names, DOB, SS, and etc for $40 each to another person that set up accounts under their names for cable, gas, and cell phones.
  3. A man walked the wrong way through a TSA security checkpoint in Newark, NJ, shutting down the entire terminal and highlighting that airport security measures are inadequate. Reviewing the camera footage proved useless; the camera’s didn’t pick up the breach.
  4. A TSA employee was nabbed illegally selling counterfeit parking passes to the TSA parking lot at LAX,  and further investigation turned up a video tape showed partying TSA screeners at the man’s residence. The tape showed the agents drinking and using narcotics. No arrests were made as the TSA quietly dismissed the employees. Not even LA’s Mayor was made aware of the breach, finding out about the incident after a speech he gave touting the airport’s security. The employee selling the parking passes was set free when no one came forward with proof he’d sold the passes.

While it’s clear that security is still a huge issue at the nation’s airports, what’s not clear is what, if anything, is being done to keep the TSA in-check. Millions rely on the agency to screen and capture terrorists but the TSA seems unable to keep the skies friendly.

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