Posts in the category "Security":

What will the new TSA chief change at airports?

TSA PRECHECK - COURTESY TSA

What is the new head of the Transportation Security Administration going to do now that he’s been on the job for four weeks?

Withing 60 days he’s going to make sure all airport screeners are retrained so they can better detect explosives and spot weapons. And he’s going to try to get more passengers to enroll in the agency’s expedited security checkpoint program, called pre-check.

He’d also like to get rid of boarding passes and someday replace them with biometric technology.

Peter Neffenger, the new TSA administrator, went before the House Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday and said it was a “huge concern” that the agency’s officers failed to identify bombs, weapons and other security threats 96 percent of the time during recent undercover testing.

“It greatly disturbs me to know that we had that failure rate at the checkpoint,” he said, and to fix that, the agency will “train out those failures.”

Neffenger also told the panel he wants to increase the use of explosive-detection dogs for passenger screening, expand enrollments in the Pre-check program and phase out “managed inclusion.”

TSA PreCheck Enrollment Center at IND Airport - courtesy TSA

Neffenger said that likes the idea that biometrics – individual characteristics such as fingerprints or facial characteristics for personal identification – might someday mean that “you are your boarding pass.”

Pot smuggling ring foiled at OAK Airport

Just say no

Three baggage handlers working for Southwest Airlines were among more than a dozen people arrested in what federal authorities allege was a long-running marijuana shipping operation that took advantage of the special security access bag handlers enjoy at California’s Oakland International Airport.

The baggage handlers allegedly used their ability to avoid security checkpoints to gain access to passenger terminals beyond the checkpoint. They’d then hand off bags of drugs to people who had cleared security and would then take the package onto a plane headed for another city, where the drugs would be sold.

Some packages of pot were smuggled as cargo, the Contra Costra Times reports, and at least one of the co-conspirators is said to have posted photos of large bundles of cash and marijuana on Instagram.

In a statement released yesterday, Oakland International Airport officials said they had been working closely with law enforcement from the outset of this investigation “to root out, stop, and prevent criminal activity and we’re pleased to see the investigation concluding and the people involved held accountable.”

Southwest airline issued a statement saying it too is fully cooperating with authorities.

Relaxing checkpoint at Oakland Int’l Airport

OAK Springhill

Travelers heading home through Oakland International Airport at the end of this holiday weekend will no doubt be thankful for two new on-site amenities.

In addition to the one-month old “BART to OAK” people mover train service running between Oakland International Airport and the BART Coliseum station, OAK is sporting a new SpringHill Suites “Experience Zone” security checkpoint area in Terminal Two (home of Southwest Airlines).

OAK is the fourth airport to get one of these reworked checkpoints, which offers modern furniture, wall art, calming lighting, soothing music and 15-foot-wide video projection screen. There are also screens showing the current wait times and a post-screening “recompose” area.

Heading to the airport? Where’s your gun?

ATL GUNS

The numbers seem a bit boggling: despite the fact that firearms, ammunition, firearm parts, and realistic replicas of firearms are prohibited in carry-on baggage, an increasing number of passengers continue to show up at airport checkpoints with these items.

In fact, according to the Transportation Security Administration, at the end of the day on November 4, 1,855 firearms had been found at airport checkpoints. 1,471 (79 percent) were loaded.

That number exceeded the 2013 total – 1,813 – by 42. And it’s just November.

Here are the airports where the most firearms have been found in carry-on bags: Dallas/Fort Worth International (DFW) – 104 Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International (ATL) – 90 Phoenix Sky Harbor International (PHX) – 66 Houston George Bush Intercontinental (IAH) – 62 Denver International (DEN) – 61 .

Of course, this hasn’t stopped people from bringing guns to the airport in their carry-on bags…

TSA

Are TSA PreCheck centers easy-access?

TSA PreCheck Enrollment Center at IND Airport - courtesy TSA

 

No balloons fell from the ceiling last week when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security celebrated the fact that over 500,000 travelers have handed over personal data – and $85 – to join the Transportation Security Administration’s expedited airport screening program since the first public enrollment center opened at Indianapolis International Airport in December 2013.

Today, the Global Gateway Alliance, a group that advocates for improvements at the New York metropolitan area airports, released a report offering TSA advice on how to push the PreCheck enrollment numbers higher.

There are currently about 300 PreCheck application sites nationwide processing, altogether, more than four thousand new applications a day. Twenty-eight of those sites are in airports (LAX and ATL each have two), with many others co-located at pre-existing sites in strip malls, office and industrial parks, and a few chiropractic offices contracted to do credentialing for airport and railroad workers and for truck drivers hauling hazardous materials to and from port facilities.

The range of off-airport sites “makes it easier for the traveling public to apply for TSA PreCheck,” said TSA’s Feinstein. But putting enrollment centers “in places where people actually congregate, which can be conveniently accessed, would raise awareness and participation the program,” the GGA suggests.

In the New York area, the TSA currently has enrollment centers at Terminal C at LaGuardia and in Terminal 4 at JFK. GGA’s report urges TSA to expand throughout area airport terminals “to reach travelers at the point when they are most likely to be thinking about airport security.”

Have you applied for the PreCheck program? How did it go?

(My story about TSA Precheck centers first appeared on USA TODAY).

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