Test gives airport workers a closer look

Recentarrestsofairportworkers:

November:Morethan20temporaryworkersatChicago'sO'HareAirportarechargedwithgettingintosecuredareasusingfraudulentairportIDcards.

October:TenworkersatNewYork'sKennedyAirportarechargedwithsmugglingheroinandcocainethroughtheairport.

July:HiramRiveraOrtiz,aJetBlueworkeratOrlandoInternationalAirport,ischargedwithagreeingtobringsixgunstoPuertoRicoonacommercialflightfor$4,500.HepleadsguiltyandissentencedinJanuaryto70monthsinprison.
March2007:ThomasAnthonyMunoz,aComairworkeratOrlando,carries14gunsintothepassengercabinofanOrlandoto-PuertoRicoflight.HepleadsguiltyinOctober.


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ByThomasFrank,USATODAY
JACKSONVILLE—JosephTyreemptiesthecellphonesandkeysfromhispocketsandpreparestobesearchedwithametaldetector—forthefourthtimetoday.
It's11a.m.atJacksonvilleInternationalAirport,andTyreisn'taterrorismsuspect.He'sanairportmaintenanceworker.HeandotherworkersatairportsarepartofatestorderedbyCongressthataimstofindoutwhetheraviationsecuritycanbeimprovedbyscreeningemployeeseverytimetheyenterarestrictedzone.

Thetestcouldleadtohundredsofthousandsofairportworkersfacingthesamescreeningaspassengers—aprospectthatCongresssayscouldcloseasecurityloopholebutwhichopponentscallalogisticalnightmare.

"Itain'tworthadarn,andit'saggravatingforus,"saidTyre,whowascheckedbyascreenernearaluggagecarouselintheairport'sgroundfloor.Tyre,hishandsblackenedbygrime,hadbeenupstairstryingtofixasqueakybeltatanairlinecounterandwasgoingtothesecuredareatogetagreasegun.

InJacksonville,TransportationSecurityAdministrationscreenersarechecking4,300workersaday,sometimes10timesaday,beforetheygothroughdoorsleadingtoticketcounters,luggagebeltsandairplanes.Fouroftheeightemployeecheckpointsareneartheairportperimetertoscreenpeopledrivingontotheairfield.

FINDMORESTORIESIN:Congress|Virginia|Idaho|TransportationSecurityAdministration|JetBlue|GovernmentAccountabilityOffice|AirTran|Comair|OrlandoInternationalAirport|AirportsCouncilInternational|Tyre|JacksonvilleInternationalAirport|Cinnabon|CharlesChambers|SammonThree-monthtest
EventheTSAopposesscreeningallairportworkers—apointthatAdministratorKipHawleymadetoCongresslastyearwhenlawmakerswereconsidering100%employeescreening.

"Airportsarewaitingtoseewhatcomesoutofthis,"TSAAssistantAdministratorJohnSammonsaid.


CHECKINGIN:TSAtoofferrelaxedsecuritylanesforfamilies,fastlanesforprotravelers
Theproblemisthatevenafterscreening,airportworkerscangetheavytools,jetfuelandpossiblyweaponsthatsomeonemaytossoveranairportfence,Sammonsaid.Abettersolutionistotrainworkerstospotsuspiciousactivity,suchasaworkerinanareawhereheshouldn'tbeorcarryingsomethingodd,Sammonsaid.

Congressorderedthethree-monthtestlastyearafteraseriesofincidents.InMarch2007,aComairbaggagehandleratOrlandoInternationalAirportwaschargedwithusinghisairlineIDtocarryaduffelbagwith14gunsand8poundsofmarijuanaintothecabinofaPuertoRico-boundflight.InJuly,aJetBlueworkeratOrlandowaschargedafteragreeingtosmuggletwomachinegunsandfourhandgunsontoaflighttoPuertoRico.

InApril,theGovernmentAccountabilityOffice,Congress'investigativearm,saidcheckingairportworkersisatopissueinaviationsecurity.

Inall,about900,000workersareemployedatthenation's450airports.AstheJacksonvilletestisshowing,someworkersresentbeingscreened—andresentmentcanbeaproblemitself.

"Everytimeyouannoyoneoftheseguysbydelayingthemandpointingtothemasabadguy,theyarenotgoingtobeyoureyesandearsthatcanhelpspotsomethingwrong,"saidaviation-securityconsultantRichRoth.

"Therearebetterwaysthan100%physicalscreening,"saidCharlesChambers,headofsecurityfortheAirportsCouncilInternational.Thecouncilandotheraviationtradegroupsestimatethatscreeningairportworkersnationwidewouldcostupto$6.5billionayear,thesameastheTSA'sannualbudget.

'Unnecessary'or'workable'?
SomeinJacksonvillecallthescreeningunnecessarybecauseairportworkersarecheckedforterroristlinks,criminalrecordsandimmigrationviolationsbeforereceivingIDcardsthatallowthemintosecuredareas.TheTSAalreadyscreensworkersatrandomplacesandtimesinsecuredairportareas.

InthemainterminalatanemployeecheckpointbehindaCinnabon,AirTrancustomerservicerepresentativeTiffanyTurnersaidshe'sscreenednineor10timesaday."It'soverrated,unnecessaryandtootimeconsuming,"Turnersaidaftertakingacoupleofminutestohaveascreenerrunawandoverherandlookthroughhershoulderbag.

Otherworkerssaidthey'rerarelydelayed,andonemonthintothetestareusedtobeingscreened.Somelikeit."We'reinanairport.Weexpectourpassengerstobescreened.Whyshouldwebedifferent?"airportadvertisingmanagerRobinCamputarosaid.

Thatreasoningis"seeminglylogical,"theTSA'sSammonsaid.Andtheshortlinesshowthatemployeescreening"isworkable,"headded.

TheTSAistestingawarenesstrainingandadditionalrandomscreeningattestsinsixotherairports.TheHomelandSecurityInstituteofArlington,Va.,isbeingpaid$640,000toevaluatethetestswhentheyendinJuly.

TwoU.S.airportsscreenallworkers.MiamiInternationalbegandoingsointhe1990stocombatsmugglingproblems.Orlandostartedlastyearafterthetwoarrests."Idothinkitgivesasensetoemployeesandpassengersofbettersecurity,"OrlandosecuritydirectorBrigitteGoerschsaid.
JacksonvillemaycontinuescreeningworkersaftertheTSAtestends."It'svery,veryimportanttosecurity,notjustherebuteveryplaceelse,"airportspokesmanMichaelStewartsaid."Thatistheweakpointwhererestricteditemscanmoveintothesecurearea."


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