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Aviation Security Screeners, United States

Aviation Security Screeners, United States

Prior to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, security screening at the more than 400 major commercial airports around the United States was the work of personnel employed by private firms that contracted with airlines. One outcome of the attacks was the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA), signed into law by President George W. Bush on November 19, 2001, which placed security screeners under the control of the newly created Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Early assessments of the new program were uneven, and TSA has encountered a number of challenges in what has proven to be one of the largest mobilizations of a civilian agency in U.S. history.

The fact that ATSA was written and passed just two months after the terrorist attacks serves to indicate the intensity of concern over air safety that prevailed in early fall, 2001. In fact, the bill would have passed even more quickly if it had not been for the thorny question of whether the government or private enterprise should control security screenersand, assuming government control, whether Transportation or Justice was the department better suited for this task.

Also symptomatic of the post-September 11 atmosphere was the spirit of bipartisanship that pervaded the debate over ATSA. Arguments were as heated as ever, but instead of the usual division between Republicans and Democrats, this time the disagreement was between the House of Representatives and the Senate. All agreed that the old system of airlines hiring security screeners and baggage handlers had to be changed and that a new ticket tax would pay for the new federal service. Legislators in the House, however, maintained that the Department of Transportation should hire security contractors, whereas their counterparts in the Senate favored a situation in which the Department of Justice would oversee a program made up of government employees.

In the end, the two houses agreed on a compromise. Over the year that followed passage of the bill, screeners under the employment of the federal government would be phased in at 419 commercial hub airports nationwide. At the same time, up to five airports would participate in a trial program whereby they could use private contractors. After two years, all airports would be permitted to use private contractors under federal supervision, assuming they received approval to do so from the Department of Transportation.

As the debate took place on Capitol Hill, many supporters of free-market economics maintained that private enterprise could inevitably do a better job than government. Yet, the World Trade Center attacks had occurred when private firms were utilized at airports, and as legislators debated ATSA, two companies had already come under scrutiny for alleged violations of federal law. In one case, for instance, the Transportation Department found that a security company had failed to conduct background checks, and had hired screeners with criminal records.

As of January 2002, TSA had just 13 employees, but by November 2002, a year after the passage of ATSA, there were 47,000 newly trained federal security screeners at airports nationwide. TSA spokesman Robert Johnson compared the mobilization to the rush of enlistees that followed U.S. entry into World War II in December, 1941. Others were not as sanguine in their appraisal. Representative Harold Rogers (R-KY) maintained that the average screener at his home facility, Kentucky Bluegrass Airport in Lexington, processed just four people per hour.

There were other concerns as well. According to Transportation Department assistant inspector general for auditing Alexis Stefani, security companies had begun increasing their fees once the government, rather than airlines, was paying the bill. Some of this money went toward increasing the notoriously low pay of airport screeners, which had been about $10,000 a year, to somewhere between $23,600 and $35,400. But, as one company had nearly doubled the rate it charged the government, it had increased employee pay by less than half that much.

Adding to TSA's challenges with the screener program were several legal battles. ATSA had contained a clause barring non-U.S. citizens from employment as airport security screeners, but in November, 2002just as the newly mobilized screeners went to worka federal judge in California found the ban on non-citizens unconstitutional. Meanwhile, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), a union of government workers, had attempted to unionize security screeners, a move TSA officials blocked on grounds that a grant of collective bargaining rights to screeners could jeopardize national security. AFGE leaders vowed to continue the effort to unionize the screeners.

Beginning December 31, 2002, all checked bags were supposed to be screened for bombs, but as the deadline approached, it was clear that TSA would have difficulty meeting it. Screeners had already begun a practice of matching bags to passengersthat is, ensuring that for each name listed as the owner of the bag, there was a passenger with that name. Bag matching had been a practice on international flights since the 1980s, but many critics maintained that it would do nothing to stop suicide bombers such as those who perpetrated the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Meanwhile, confiscated itemssome of them as unusual as deer antlers and rolling pinspiled up at airports. Some facilities had become so overwhelmed with surplus

items that they contracted with scrap-metal companies to haul away all the knives, scissors, and other sharp items confiscated. Passengers did not have to give up these items permanently, assuming the item was not illegal in the first place, and some airports had facilities for travelers to mail home items that they could not take on planes.

In contrast to these challenges and the dim prognoses offered by some critics, there was much about the federal screener program that pointed to success. The rockiness of its early months was considered inevitable in light of the monumental task administrators faced after September 11. Clearly, a mobilization such as the one required to federalize the screener program can only be properly evaluated after several months or years, not just a few weeks.

FURTHER READING:

PERIODICALS:

Croft, John. "Air Security Bill Clears Lawmakers' Logjam." Aviation Week & Space Technology 155, no. 21 (November 19, 2001): 46.

Goo, Sara Kehaulani. "Security Law Called Unconstitutional." Washington Post. (November 16, 2002): A12.

. "Security's Growing Leftovers: Confiscated or Forgotten Objects Piling Up at Country's Airports." Washington Post. (February 4, 2003): E1.

Lee, Christopher, and Sara Kehaulani Goo. "TSA Blocks Attempts to Unionize Screeners." Washington Post. (January 10, 2003): A19.

Miller, Leslie. "Some Airport Screeners Raise Rates." San Diego Union-Tribune. (August 27, 2002): A7.

. "Deadline Met for Airport Security Screeners." San Diego Union-Tribune. (November 17, 2002): A2.

Wald, Matthew L. "Some Busy Airports to Miss Deadline for Scanning Bags." New York Times. (November 19,2002): A23.

ELECTRONIC:

Transportation Security Administration. <http://www.tsa.gov/public/> (March 5, 2003).

SEE ALSO

Air Marshals, United States
Civil Aviation Security, United States
FAA (United States Federal Aviation Administration)
September 11 Terrorist Attacks on the United States
Transportation Department, United States

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Aviation Security Screeners, United States

Aviation Security Screeners, United States

Forensic investigations attempt to determine the cause of accidents and even to reconstruct (at least conceptually) the course of events leading up to and including the incident. In the case of an aircraft accident, where much of the evidence may be destroyed or damaged by a crash, the task is particularly challenging. Analysis of all data complied before and during the flight is useful in piecing together what occurred.

Analysis of the flight data recorder that is installed on many aircraft is a well-known forensic tool. However, air travel security technologies, which are in place principally to thwart aircraft high-jacking and terrorist opportunities, can also provide information useful to a forensic investigation.

One such technology involves the security screening that is a part of the pre-flight process. Aviation security screeners focus on both the passenger and luggage. Airline passengers are familiar with walking through a metal detector and having security personnel examiner them more closely using a hand-held metal detector. More recently, a walk-through machine has been introduced that can analyze the air flowing off of a person's body. The air can be rapidly analyzed, enabling the detection of non-metallic chemicals, which would otherwise escape the metal detector. The odor of the chemicals wafts off of the body along with the plume of heated air. Suspicious chemicals, such as those in plastic explosives , may be detected in this way.

Another routine part of air travel is the examination of carry-on and shipped baggage using an x-ray machine. The high energy x rays are able to penetrate through the suitcase to reveal the outline of the objects inside. A skilled operator is able to assess the contents based on their shape and translucency and focus on suspicious objects.

Chromatography is also routinely used to survey personal computers to verify that the computer case is not in fact housing an explosive. The object to be examined is swabbed using a fabric, which is then inserted into the chromatograph. The analysis takes only a few seconds to complete.

Documentation is another aspect of security screening. For example, passports provide an officially sanctioned photographic record and other information from a person. Concerns about the falsification of passports has led to the adoption of other documentation systems, including fingerprint and retinal scans.

Prior to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, security screening at the more than 400 major commercial airports around the United States was the work of personnel employed by private firms that contracted with airlines. One outcome of the attacks was the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA), signed into law by President George W. Bush on November 19, 2001, which placed security screeners under the control of the newly created Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Early assessments of the new program were uneven, and TSA has encountered a number of challenges in what has proven to be one of the largest mobilizations of a civilian agency in U.S. history.

The fact that ATSA was written and passed just two months after the terrorist attacks serves to indicate the intensity of concern over air safety that prevailed in early fall of 2001. In fact, the bill would have passed even more quickly if it had not been for the thorny question of whether the government or private enterprise should control security screenersand, assuming government control, whether Transportation or Justice was the department better suited for this task.

As of January 2002, TSA had just 13 employees, but by November 2002, a year after the passage of ATSA, there were 47,000 newly trained federal security screeners at airports nationwide. TSA spokesman Robert Johnson compared the mobilization to the rush of enlistees that followed U.S. entry into World War II in December 1941. Others were not as sanguine in their appraisal. Representative Harold Rogers (R-KY) maintained that the average screener at his home facility, Kentucky Bluegrass Airport in Lexington, processed just four people per hour.

All checked bags are supposed to be screened for bombs by TSA workers as of December 31, 2002. Screeners earlier began a practice of matching bags to passengersthat is, ensuring that for each name listed as the owner of the bag, there was a passenger with that name. Bag matching had been a practice on international flights since the 1980s, but many critics maintained that it would do nothing to stop suicide bombers such as those who perpetrated the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Much of the information used for aviation security screening is part of databases. Proof of citizenship is one well-known example. As well, the data collected in luggage and passenger pre-boarding security checks can be maintained for a set period of time. If the latter records are still available, a forensic inspector is able to trace the pre-boarding history of each passenger.

see also Air plume and chemical analysis; Aircraft accident investigations; Biometric eye scans; Explosives; Flight data recorders; Gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer; Metal detectors.

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"Aviation Security Screeners, United States." World of Forensic Science. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Oct. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Aviation Security Screeners, United States." World of Forensic Science. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 19, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/aviation-security-screeners-united-states

"Aviation Security Screeners, United States." World of Forensic Science. . Retrieved October 19, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/aviation-security-screeners-united-states