BY MARY WISNIEWSKI
Illinois senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama sent a letter to the head of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration Thursday expressing “serious concerns” over TSA uniforms being left out in the open at O’Hare Airport.
Obama was responding to a report in the Chicago Sun-Times that TSA uniforms, TSA radios with access to a secure channel, sensitive security information and a cashbox were left unsecured at airport checkpoints. TSA said there was no security breach and that the materials were within the “sterile area” beyond the checkpoints.
Security breach hits O'Hare
But an airport security expert said the uniforms could have been stolen and used to impersonate TSA officers.
“As you know, terrorists have attempted to impersonate law enforcement and other security officials in order to gather intelligence, conduct counter-surveillance, and even carry out attacks,” Obama wrote in a letter to TSA Assistant Secretary Edmund “Kip” Hawley. “Considering the extraordinary security threats our nation faces every day, reports suggesting that uniforms could possibly be accessed are wholly unacceptable.”
Obama, who is a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, asked Hawley to provide further information to highlight areas where improvements may be “urgently needed,” and requested guidelines governing the security of uniforms and other equipment.
Obama also wondered whether TSA staff or staff of the Department of Homeland Security is concerned about theft of screener uniforms or other items as a terrorist tactic.
“I know that the more than 40,000 TSA screeners work diligently to screen millions of passengers and bags every day across America, but their efforts will be compromised if seemingly mundane, but still critical security protocols are not followed,” Obama wrote.
The information about the unsecured items was provided in a March 14 Chicago Department of Aviation report obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.