TSA: Do more to screen airport and airline workers at PBIA, nationwide

Red-faced after authorities busted a gun smuggling ring operated by an Atlanta airport worker, the Transportation Security Administration said this week it is boosting screening for airport and airline workers.

“I am confident that the potential insider-threat posed by aviation industry employees will be significantly mitigated as a result of these recommendations,” DHS secretary Jeh Johnson said Monday.

Palm Beach International Airport already has instituted some of the suggested aspects, including screening all airport and airline employees, director of operations Peter Labbe said Tuesday.

“TSA does a great job of screening,” Labbe said. He said more TSA officers would help, but lines already are short at PBIA and an extra worker or two might save passengers only a few minutes.

In December, authorities said two men with ties to Delta Air Lines repeatedly thwarted security at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport to transport guns from Atlanta to New York. One, a baggage handler, allegedly bypassed security with carry-on bags full of guns and handed them to another man who was a former Delta worker traveling on flights.

The changes announced this week:

1. Fingerprint-based criminal history checks every two years for all airport employee SIDA badgeholders.

2. Airport and airline employees must be screened.

3. Reduce the number of access points to secured areas to the minimum needed to operate.

4. Increase aviation employee screening including random screen during the work day.

5. Do a new push of the Department of Homeland Security’s “if You See Something, Say Something” initiative.

Following the Atlanta incident, Johnson, in January, had requested a 90-day review by the Aviation Security Advisory Committee, a group created after a terrorist bomb planted in baggage brought down Pan American Flight 103 over Scotland.

Johnson also noted the committee concluded physical screening of every employee wouldn’t be a cure-all and would divert critical resources from other critical security functions to mitigate other risks.