Another Montana Airport Looks into Private Security Companies After Breach

Created 01/14/2010 - 09:44

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Date: 01/14/2010
By Line: Teaser: The inability of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners to identify a gun inside a carry-on bag may have tested the patience of a Southwest Montana airport security chief for the final time.

The inability of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners to identify a gun inside a carry-on bag [1] may have tested the patience of the head of a Southwest Montana airport for the final time: he's looking into privatizing his security screening operation, reports The Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

The incident in question stems from mid-December, before airport security became a hot topic due to the botched terrorist attack on Christmas Day.

On the morning of Sunday, Dec. 13, Transportation Security Administration screeners at Gallatin Field [2]inadvertently allowed a man with a firearm in his carry-on bag through security, according to a TSA statement released Wednesday.

While in the boarding area, the unidentified man realized he had the gun and turned himself into TSA officials. In response, TSA rescreened every passenger at the airport, including passengers on a Horizon Air flight that had left the gate but not yet taken off, delaying three flights for more than an hour...

Dick Roehm, chair of the Gallatin Airport Authority, told the local paper that this incident combined with recurrent passenger complaints regarding rude security officers and poor communication with the TSA will spur him to explore private companies to replace TSA screeners. To do so, Roehm will have to apply to the TSA's Screening Partnership Program [3] (SPP), which allows airports to substitute qualified private security contractors for TSA screeners under federal oversight. The TSA's Web site advertises the program as "combining private-sector operational expertise with TSA's technology, experience and resources."

Already, many airports in Montana are considering privatizing their security screening operations. Airport Director Brian Sprenger told the paper that he will follow closely what happens to the quality of security screenings if these airports go private. "Our biggest concern is a safe environment for our traveling public,” he said.

Roehm, however, seemed bewildered by the inability of TSA screeners to detect the gun.

“If those guys can’t detect a handgun, which is pretty basic, not some exotic explosive sewn to your underpants, then we get upset,” he said, alluding to Christmas Day's underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

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