The anonymous tip proved true and one of the carry on bag of a Comair employee had 13 semiautomatic guns and one .22 caliber rifle along with 8 pounds of marijuana. This incident clearly shocked the TSA and the entire nation and clearly exposed the inherent loopholes in the airport security system. Subsequent to this incident, the TSA made amendments to its security policy requiring airport employees to be screened before they enter the sterile zone. However, the fact remains that neither the federal government or the TSA have made it compulsory to implement 100% screening of employees. Instead what now exists is a random screening of staff who access the sterile zone. With the exception of the Miami international Airport, no other airports in the country insist on 100% screening of the staff on a routine basis. [Bartholomew Elias, 2010, pg 220]
Higher Standards For Hiring
The need for maintaining quality workforce that is more effective as well as efficient is critical for airports. The TSA, which manages the American airport security, has been bogged with concerns about the quality of its screeners. Security professionals have questioned the 'Department of Transportation's (DOT) decision to overlook the minimum education qualification standards in lieu of one year's experience as a screener. The concerns are that education would play an important role as technology gets advanced and new, sophisticated screening tools are commissioned to service. It is also essential to allay the general opinion among passengers that the TSA staff are inconsiderate and lack discrimination. Recently for instance, a 5-year-old boy was frisked away because his name resembled that of a terror suspect. Also the TSA officials prevented the mother from comforting the boy alleging that he 'was a national security risk' [The Consumerist] Also, the controversial "Sippy cup incident" highlights the lack of professional discrimination. In the above-mentioned case, a woman with former secret service credentials traveling with her infant was stopped and hassled by the TSA officials just because she happened to have a leaky Sippy cup of water for the baby. This kind of a routine, inept behavior should not be tolerated. The first and foremost requirement for such a sensitive job is to have the basic aptitude. When hiring the TSA should definitely focus on recruiting people with high aptitude who could balance the requirements of the job while at the same time not compromising on the customer service aspect of their job.
The airline industry is already in a crisis and security concerns are adding to their woes. Terrorists are becoming increasingly adept in evading the conventional screening techniques. The recent case of Umar AbdulMutallab who successfully passed through one of the busiest and highly secure airports in Amsterdam is a case in point. There is definitely a need to continuously review the security arrangements and to adopt new and advanced technologies that would guarantee accuracy in detection of any potential danger. The grave intent of terrorists makes it indispensable for airports across the world to deploy comprehensive scanning tools such as the whole body scanning systems. These systems not only improve the screening efficiency and effectiveness but also expedite the screening process making it more comfortable for the passengers. In the wake of the recent security threats there is also a growing consensus that it is now necessary to sacrifice some of our privacy concerns to guarantee overall safety. Elaborate security protocols including routine screening of airline staff should be immediately implemented. Furthermore, more innovative approaches such as the ultra precise T-ray scanners and the new form of 3D scanners that do not violate privacy concerns should be implemented as soon as possible. Also, the TSA should have more focus on their hiring standards and only recruit people with high aptitude who could balance the requirements of the job without unduly compromising customer service. As Michael Jenkins, the international terrorism expert puts it in a lighter vein, all these measures are a sad necessity until 'we invent an X-ray for a man's soul'.
1) Jeffery C. Price MA & Jeffery S. Forrest PhD, 'Practical Aviation Security: Predicting and Preventing Future Threats', BH publishers, 2009
2) Bartholomew Elias 2010, 'Airport and Aviation Security: U.S. Policy and Strategy in the age of Global Terrorism', Auerbach Publications.
3) Garrick Blalock, Vrinda Kadiyali & Daniel H. Simon, (Feb 2005), 'The Impact of Post 9/11 Airport Security Measures on the Demand for Air Travel', Journal of Law and Economics, Available at, http://aem.cornell.edu/faculty_sites/gb78/wp/airport_security_022305.pdf