WASHINGTON — President Bush’s plan to put the federal government in charge of airport security does not make former Federal Aviation Administration inspector
Steve Elson breathe any easier, particularly when it comes to training and testing security checkpoint screeners.
As a former airport security inspector, Elson claims the FAA rigs inspections so that screeners can easily pass.
“They design the tests so they can pass,” he said in an interview with WorldNetDaily.
Elson said FAA’s undercover agents, who are “easily recognized by screeners,” try to slip through checkpoints with “stuff any moron can find.”
He says agents can use only “FAA-approved objects” to simulate weapons a terrorist might try to get through metal detectors or x-ray machines. The props include large pistols and a bundle of dynamite attached to a large clock concealed in a plastic bag.
“The test objects are big bombs and big guns,” Elson said. “Everything is designed to pass.”
He says a more realistic test would challenge x-ray checkers to find a handgun that’s been taken apart and stored in different sections of a carry-on bag. They should also be expected to detect weapons hidden inside lead-lined bags, hair dryers and radios. To test metal detectors, Elson says agents should try to pass through with metal objects kept inside a fanny pack.
Another problem: Elson says FAA agents place guns down flat on the x-ray conveyor belt, making it easier for screeners to spot the weapons inside bags. He says terrorists know to stand such weapons on end so the x-ray shows a cross section, thereby disguising their shape.
Airlines hire security companies to run security checkpoints at airports. That won’t change under Bush’s plan, which he announced yesterday, 16 days after suicide hijackers slammed jetliners into the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
But the government, most likely the FAA, will train and test the companies’ screeners, as well as perform background checks on them, and establish new standards for security operations.
Some airline pilots aren’t happy about the government setting standards.
“Until somebody gets the FAA honest, we’re very likely to see [terrorist attacks] again,” said Ralph Omholt, captain for a major airline.
Screeners who fail the FAA test now are more often than not fired by security contractors, Elson says. Those who pass typically get a $25 bonus, or a reward based on the number of test objects they detect.
Argenbright Security Inc. operates checkpoints at
Washington Dulles International Airport. Islamic
terrorists hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 not
long after it took off from Dulles, slamming the jet
into the Pentagon.
Argenbright also runs airport security in Newark, N.J. United Airlines flight 93, which crashed southeast of Pittsburgh, took off from Newark.
Globe Aviation Security Services Corp. handles security checkpoints for American Airlines terminals at Logan International Airport in Boston. Terrorists boarded American Airlines Flight 11 at Logan and crashed it into the World Trade Center’s north tower
in New York.
United Airlines uses Huntleigh Corp. to man checkpoints at its Logan terminal. United Airlines Flight 175, the second plane to hit the Trade Center, also took off from Logan.
“Logan has had a really bad track record” for security, and not just at checkpoints, said an American Airlines cargo employee. X-ray machines used by cargo screeners are often on the blink, the employee says.
And apparently checkpoint security is still weak there.
Last week, an American Airlines flight attendant tested security by trying to sneak through with a pocketknife. She complained to management after getting through the checkpoint with it. Globe was supposed to be screening for such knives after it was
learned that the Arab hijackers pulled off their evil stunt using box cutters.
“Nothing’s changed,” said an American Airlines veteran at Logan.
FAA Administrator Jane F. Garvey, a Clinton appointee, was director of Logan International Airport from 1991 to 1993.
Omholt says the FAA has ignored warnings from Congress, which has discovered holes in airport security through its investigative arm, the General Accounting Office.
“The FAA gave bin Laden an engraved invitation with their selective ignorance of airport security, defying Congress with the GAO citing the FAA’s blatant failures,” he said. “There’s been no appreciable increase to airport security.”
But Elson says Congress shares much of the blame.
“I hold Congress more responsible for this than any of these terrorists,” he said. “At least they died for what they believed in.”
“Yet those people in Congress raised their right hand and swore allegiance to the Constitution. They pledged to protect our security and provide for our defense,” Elson said. “But they haven’t honored that oath. They’ve known the system’s been broken for years and they haven’t fixed it.”