Airport-security shock: ‘Crew can be infiltrated’

By Douglas Ernst

Metrojet Airbus 321-200 was downed by ISIS in Egypt's Sinai Desert, Oct. 31, 2015 (Photo: CBS screenshot)
Metrojet Airbus 321-200 was downed by ISIS in Egypt’s Sinai Desert, Oct. 31, 2015 (Photo: CBS screenshot)

The downing of a Russian jet in Egypt’s Sinai Desert on Oct. 31 by the Islamic State group has exposed gaping holes in U.S. airport security.

Authorities say a local baggage handler at Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport in Egypt planted a bomb inside a soda can that killed all 224 passengers aboard Metrojet Airbus 321-200. The revelation has sparked renewed scrutiny of a June 4 report by the Department of Homeland Security, which found 73 aviation workers employed by airlines and vendors had alleged ties to terrorism.

Risk management expert Vernon L. Grose told WND on Monday that U.S. airport security is still woefully lacking 14 years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

“The crew can be infiltrated. Luggage handlers, the people who prepare the food or those who service the lavatories – the number of people with full access who could do us harm is shocking. Anyone can smuggle in a device. It’s a wide-open gate if they want to come in,” said Grose, the chairman of Omega Systems Group Inc., and former member of the National Transportation Safety Board.

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Homeland Security’s June report backs up Grose’s analysis.

“TSA had less effective controls in place for ensuring that aviation workers 1.) had not committed crimes that would disqualify them from having unescorted access to secure airport areas, and 2.) had lawful status and were authorized to work in the United States,” the report read. “In general, TSA relied on airport operators to perform criminal history and work authorization checks, but had limited oversight over these commercial entities. Thus, TSA lacked assurance that it properly vetted all credential applicants.”

The report also found that thousands of records had potentially incomplete or inaccurate data, such as an initial for a first name and missing social security numbers.

ABC News Egypt terror plot

DHS Inspector General John Roth offered his own bleak findings during congressional testimony Sept. 29.

“We ran multiple tests at eight different airports of different sizes, including large category X airports across the country, and tested airports using private screeners as part of the Screening Partnership Program. The results were consistent across every airport,” Roth said. “Our testing was designed to test checkpoint operations in real world conditions. It was not designed to test specific, discrete segments of checkpoint operations, but rather the system as a whole. The failures included failures in the technology, failures in TSA procedures, and human error. We found layers of security simply missing.”

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Grose said failure to address these risks would bring peril, but that President Obama appears “unsympathetic” to the cause. He cited Obama’s “hyper-sensitivity” about racial profiling at airports – a tactic used effectively by Israel – and his track record of citing “global warming” as one of America’s gravest national security threats.

“I am here today to say that climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security, an immediate risk to our national security, and, make no mistake, it will impact how our military defends our country,” Obama said May 20 while speaking to at the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut.

The Homeland Security report did say TSA took steps between 2012 and 2014 to address its weaknesses.

“These enhancements included policies such as rejecting dates of birth that indicate an individual is 14 years or age or under, or older than 105 years, or encouraging airports to submit electronic copies of required immigration paperwork with applications, in order to expedite the threat assessment process.”

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