The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced on Monday ambitious new security measures for airport employees, including airline personnel. The new security rules were sparked by several recent incidents of misconduct by TSA employees including a Delta baggage handler accused of gun smuggling and a TSA screener at Denver International Airport who manipulated a scanning machine to require pat downs so he could grope male passengers he found attractive.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Jeh Johnson announced the changes on Monday after several recent serious airport security breaches revealed serious vulnerabilities in the air transportation system. DHS Secretary Johnson said the security changes will greatly reduce “the potential insider threat” posed by aviation employees. The new rules will require real-time, recurring criminal background checks for aviation workers, including airline employees. Fingerprint-based background checks will also now be conducted every two years for airport employees who hold Secure Identification Display Area badges.
Since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, an estimated $57 billion has been spent on revamping the nation’s airport security. On February 2, 2015, the House Committee on Homeland Security’s Subcommittee on Transportation Security held a hearing to discuss airport access control measures after several alarming security incidents, including one involving a 15-year-old boy who breached security to hide in the wheel well of a Boeing 767 and flew from San Jose, California, to Maui, Hawaii and the arrest of a Delta baggage handler at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport for gun smuggling the FBI called a “serious security breach.” Rep. John Katko (R-NY) who chaired the hearing asked:
“What good is all of this screening at the front door if we are not paying enough attention to the backdoor?”
On April 13, an Alaska Airlines ramp agent said he fell asleep inside a commercial airliner’s cargo hold on an Los Angeles bound flight. The pilot was forced to return to Seattle where the flight originated after he heard banging coming from under the plane. The bizarre incident is one of several that expose remaining security breaches in the nation’s air transportation system –more than thirteen years after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that sparked the creation of the TSA to replace private security guards at U.S. airports.