Airport security lax?
According to John Giaquinto, managing director of security for the Air Transport Association (ATA) of America in Washington, D.C., the group does not yet have enough information about the Department of Transportation's (DOT) audit and does not want to comment on the scope of the problem until it has all the facts. "We are taking |the report~ seriously, but we have not really been principle players in terms of having all the details of the report and knowing which airports were involved and what carriers might be involved," he explains. According to the report by DOT's Office of the Inspector General, unauthorized personnel were able to enter secured areas in category X airports in fifteen out of twenty attempts. (Category X airports are defined by the report as "those airports designated by the FAA as having a higher threat of terrorist activity and requiring extraordinary security measures.") Once inside those areas, the auditors were seldom challenged by airport employees, and they observed others within the area not displaying the proper identification.
The report, which was completed in September 1993 but not released to the public until December, blamed lax security on the FAA. It says the inadequate access control is a result of nonaggressive inspection and testing of airport security systems and limited enforcement actions by the agency.
Giaquinto says the ATA is studying the problem and has discussed it with the FAA and the carriers. "|The carriers~ agreed that they would express their concern to their employees and make sure that everyone understands that they have to be vigilant and not allow any complacency to set in," he says.
Don Hubbard, staff vice president, security, of Trans World Airlines Inc., in Mount Kisco, New York, and chairman of the Airports & Airlines Subcommittee of the ASIS Standing Committee on Transportation Security, agrees that the carriers should emphasize aggressive and thorough testing of access control procedures: however, he believes the threat this situation poses to aviation security should be put into perspective.
"I would suggest to you that these are not the ways that Joe Hijacker or Joe Bomber are going to go about |their business~....Of course, many, many scenarios are possible. Are they likely or probable? I think the answer is a resounding no," he explains.
According to Hubbard, the real threat to aviation comes from sophisticated bomb makers who sneak bombs onto airplanes in high threat areas. He points out, as does the report, that the United States is still considered a low threat area. The DOT report makes two recommendations to the FAA. First, it recommends emphasizing aggressive and thorough testing of access control procedures, such as checking IDs and challenging unauthorized personnel. Second, the report suggests relaying some of the weaknesses cited in the paper to the president and to the Congress.
The FAA responded to the recommendations in August after reviewing a June 1993 draft of the report. The agency concurred with the first recommendation and partially concurred with the second, saying it agreed that internal control weaknesses merit the attention of the president and Congress. Because of actions mandated by the Aviation Security Improvement Act of 1990, however, a report at this time is premature and could lead to alarmist conditions, according to the agency.
The FAA also commented that the report's findings seem to overstate the problem concerning security and that FAA inspections and oversight are improving. Hubbard agrees: "I don't think the FAA is to be blamed at all. They've got inspectors out all the time in secured areas looking for...people not wearing their IDs. They look for unattended airplanes to go onto. All the rules that are out there, I think they are pretty aggressive in enforcing."
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|Title Annotation:||Federal Aviation Administration|
|Date:||Feb 1, 1994|
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