Airport vendors allowed to hire workers without full background checks

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Monday, April 30, 2012

ATLANTA—Because of a backlog in requests for criminal background checks, airport vendors at this city's airport have been allowed to hire employees before receiving security clearance.

In a memo obtained by WSB TV in Atlanta, Atlanta's Department of Aviation on April 20 told "all airlines, tenants, contractors and government entities" at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the world's busiest, that the Transportation Security Administration "has issued regulatory relief in the wake of extended delays in Criminal History Records Checks (CHRCs) and Security Threat Assessment (STA) processing," the memo reads. "This regulatory relief allows the Security Division to issue access for individuals whose CHRC and STA data has been submitted for background vetting."

A TSA spokesman, Jon Allen, told WSB TV that the TSA has given airport employers "interim regulatory relief," allowing them to hire people without the completed background checks. However, "at no time was security at risk, and all new employees will still undergo identity verification and be subject to watchlist matching," Allen said.

Allen told the TV station the TSA is working with the American Association of Airport Executives "to implement a solution."

The memo says that "at some point, all applicants must still receive an approved STA clearance! If any applicant's STA is rejected and/or placed in the 'do not issue' status, his/her SIDA badge will be deactivated immediately."

A security expert cited by WSB TV, Brent Brown of Chesley-Brown Security, said the decision poses a risk to the airport. "You can't put unsecured people or people that you haven't checked in a secured environment," Brown told the TV station. "By that very definition, you've breached security."