The Feb. 28 issue of Aviation Daily includes my story (subscribers only) about how employees at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Airport have become the latest subjected to random screening by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
The Aviation Direct Access Screening Program, created in September 2006, uses Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) to randomly screen airline and airport employees anywhere on the secure side of an airport, said TSA spokesman Christopher White. "The program is an enhancement to already established layers of security for employees, including Security Identification Display Area (SIDA) badges, perpetual vetting and the airport security plan, all of which addresses access control," he said.
A large staff is not needed to implement the program, said White. "We can have a significant impact with a small number of TSOs. They may be near a door in the terminal one day, or at an airport security gate another day," he said. "Employees will not know whether they will be screened on any given day at any given time." The program will not have a negative impact on wait times, he added.
Considering the breaches in security that have been reported here and in other media outlets -- including our new friend Dave Savini, the investigative reporter at Chicago's CBS station who reported about SIDA badge abuses -- maybe this isn't such a bad idea. I think about the post I did about a worker at O'Hare who was arrested for taking payoffs in exchange for allowing an agent to avoid security and smuggle U.S. currency onto international flights.
Thousands of workers at airports across the country have access to secure areas with nothing but a TSA agent to check their SIDA badge. And that agent does not screen the bags and luggage that workers are carrying. I never saw this when I worked for the airlines, but it would be really easy for someone leaving his or her home airport to carry just about anything -- legal or not -- through security because the odds of being caught were practically nil.
But now if there's a chance -- however small -- that you may be stopped and searched, it will keep the honest workers honest and will give the less honest a little more to think about. I believe the vast majority of workers understand the seriousness of security and can be trusted to follow the rules. But it only takes a few people -- like the agent at O'Hare -- to spoil it for everyone.