Gap in law could be putting security at airports at risk

Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne obtained a letter that shows a gap in a law that currently creates a dangerous security gap at airports across the country, including the busiest – Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

“It’s an absolute breakdown in the security of the United States that the TSA does not have access to all criminal history records for the employment and licensing purposes,” GBI director Vernon Keenan told Winne. “Everyone that we’ve talked to is appalled that this has gone on since 9/11 and has never been corrected.”

The letter is to key members of Congress from the president of the Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies. Keenan said he's a member.

It speaks of "a current gap in information access and sharing which could make our nation more vulnerable to security threats."

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It said several states are prohibited by law from making information on individual's criminal history available for some federal agencies to use in conducting background investigations on people who apply for access to secure area and more.

Keenan said, as a result, the Transportation Security Administration, for instance, may unknowingly grant access to secure areas at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to people with criminal records in at least 11 states.

“Security is compromised right now at our airport and others because of this gap?” Winne asked Keenan.

“That is my assessment,” Keenan said.

Keenan said the problem is that 11 states rely on an obsolete federal law written before the TSA existed, which defines the kind of agencies with which criminal histories can be shared.

The letter supports updating that law to fix the dangerous gap.

“What we hear is, 'Well they got most of the states to give their records.' Most of them isn’t good enough when we’re talking about critical issues that can occur at the world’s busiest airport," Keenan said.

“Georgia does not have the gap in its state law, but it’s affected by states that do?” Winne asked Keenan.

“That is correct,” Keenan said.

The TSA sent a statement to Winne on Tuesday saying:

“TSA continues to vet secure area employees against terrorist databases, which the Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies (ASCIA) letter does not address. Additionally at Atlanta-Hartsfield, employees are subject to screening as they enter the secure area.”   

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