March 17, 2007

Airports Are Still Easy Targets

An editorial in today’s New York Times points out that, despite being subjected to shirt-raising puffs of cold air, having to walk around shoe-free and all but forced to buy insanely expensive beverages because our water is no good, airplane travelers are still at serious risk. Not from each other mind you, but from airport employees. Because they don’t undergo the same rigorous screening as passengers, there’s little to stop them from bring dangerous materials into a secure area or onto a plane without detection.

The piece discusses last week’s security breach at the Orlando Airport in Florida, which was discovered only because of an anonymous tip. From the Times: “A customer service agent for Comair, a subsidiary of Delta, and another Comair employee used their work uniforms and identification badges to gain access to restricted areas, where they stored a duffle bag containing 13 handguns, an assault rifle and a stash of marijuana near the departure gates. One of the men later retrieved the bag and took it aboard a Delta flight to Puerto Rico as carry-on luggage. Based on the tip, authorities pulled one of the men off the plane before it took off and, disturbingly late, caught the other with the duffle bag in San Juan.”

Representative Nita Lowey of New York and Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi (both Democrats) have introduced a bill that would create a screening program at five airports for all workers with access to secure areas. While such a program would no doubt be costly and pose quite an inconvenience (darn), it seems far better than the alternative.

By Kari Milchman

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