Heavily redacted report on Atlanta airport security reveals little on risks

The most recent security study of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport's security gives little information to the average traveler. Most of the information, including 15 recommendations, are redacted by the City of Atlanta. Officials said that is for security reasons.  HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
The most recent security study of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport's security gives little information to the average traveler. Most of the information, including 15 recommendations, are redacted by the City of Atlanta. Officials said that is for security reasons. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

A City of Atlanta report on the recent audit assessing Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport’s security is so heavily redacted that it reveals little to travelers about possible shortfalls.

The audit, submitted to the Atlanta City Council this month, looked at issues including the airport’s control of access to secure areas, its CCTV video surveillance system, vehicle inspections and the system for issuing security badges to employees.

“We tested controls in areas that we determined to be higher risk,” a letter from the city auditor said. “Federal law requires that we redact sensitive security information from the audit report for public release, which TSA reviewed prior to release.”

The audit report included 15 recommendations, all of which were completely redacted.

A screenshot of an Atlanta airport security audit report's summary of  recommendations, which were completely redacted. Source: City of Atlanta
A screenshot of an Atlanta airport security audit report's summary of recommendations, which were completely redacted. Source: City of Atlanta

Credit: Source: City of Atlanta

Credit: Source: City of Atlanta

A summary of the audit’s findings noted the airport’s CCTV vendor acknowledged the lack of a monthly system availability report, even though it is contractually responsible for providing them.

It also says the airport will perform reverse badge audits more often due to a TSA directive.

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The audit was completed after Hartsfield-Jackson’s then-general manager Roosevelt Council suggested the city auditor’s office study the airport security office. Council, who led the Atlanta airport from 2016 to 2018, is now the city of Atlanta’s chief financial officer.

The unredacted report will be presented next week to the Atlanta City Council’s transportation committee, which oversees the airport. Discussion of sensitive security information will be in executive session, according to City Auditor Amanda Noble.

That could include security measures, directives, programs and contingency plans; and other information from threats to research and development.

The airport said it could not respond to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the study’s findings because portions of the report cannot be made public. It noted the airport’s security office received a perfect score from a recent Transportation Security Administration audit.

“We are confident that ATL offers a safe and secure environment for its millions of passengers and thousands of employees," the airport said in a written statement.

One of the issues studied by the auditor was long wait times for employees going through screening for security badges, as previously reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The airport last year was trying to improve the process and said it is now using procedures for social distancing that have also reduced wait times.

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