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airport security

The strategies of choosing a new security provider


THE INTERNET—Choosing a new security provider can be a turbulent time for any organization, but it can be especially challenging in the aviation environment. One of the keys to a smooth transition with a new provider is to ensure that the management styles mesh, said John Dean, senior manager of aviation security at the Portland International Airport in Oregon, which recently switched security providers.

Tom Ridge on airport security: ‘We’re not doing a very good job’


NEW YORK—Even the former head of the Department of Homeland Security doesn’t think airport security is adequate.

Registered traveler program is back

Thursday, May 6, 2010

It turns out that the $200 membership fee you paid to get through airport security faster may not have been a waste of money after all.

A company called Alclear, LLC announced on May 5 it has acquired the assets of Verified Identity Pass, the company that operated the Clear program for verified travelers, which was in bankruptcy protection.

You may remember that VIP abruptly closed all of its registered traveler security lanes and ceased company operations back in June 2009, stranding its 200,000 members.

According to the company Web site:
Clear will transform the airport experience and take the angst out of travel through expedited service at the security checkpoint. We pledge expedience, predictability and service to our customers. At the same time we are bringing added security for you, our Government and our airport partners.

For our existing members, we appreciate your patience and loyalty. It is important for you to know that we will honor your remaining membership terms. The new Clear is a customer centric company - we want to rebuild it with you and for you.

So sweet.

But, what changes will this new company offer to make this type of program viable? There was speculation that Congress may play a role in revitalizing this program and trying to make biometric identification more inclusive to the general public. However, I am doubtful that the average traveler will ever embrace (or pay for) this type of program. But, that would certainly be a way to get more folks enrolled in the program and perhaps make the Clear program financially possible.

And, if you're super anxious to enroll in this program, the company's Web site has a registration page for you to sign up. Personally, I'm going to hold out for a bit.

Guns allowed in the airport?


ATLANTA—The governor of Georgia has a bill on his desk that could make it legal for gun owners to carry their firearms into parts of the Hartsfield-Jackson airport, according to CBS News.

One signature away from guns in Atlanta airport

Monday, May 3, 2010

The governor of Georgia has a bill on his desk that would permit licensed gun owners to carry firearms in areas of Atlanta Hartsfield Airport that are not controlled by the federal government. These areas include terminals and parking lots, according to this article in USA Today. The article also notes that airport officials vigorously oppose the legislation.

But this isn't exactly a new initiative in Georgia. Here's more:
It expands on a state law passed in 2008 that allows Georgia residents with firearm licenses to bring concealed weapons onto public transportation, in parks and recreational areas and into restaurants that serve alcohol. Gun advocates have since been lobbying to expand the law to include the airport.

At first I was in total disbelief about this legislation, until I realized that gun owners wouldn't be allowed to enter the secure areas of the airport (which is controlled by the TSA) and therefore wouldn't be able to board planes. So, when it comes down to it, really the only change would be that gun owners could have firearms on airport property. Still, not sure if that kind of legislation is going to fly with airport security folks.

Former Chicago aviation chief says 15,000 badges missing

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Aviation will never be 100 percent secure. It's just not possible. “Those threatening us are finding better ways to compromise the system and our goals are that we can achieve better use of security through technology,” said Doug Laird, president of aviation consulting firm Laird & Associates and former security director for Northwest Airlines during a panel discussion at ISC West this year.

While technology plays an important role, it is equally important to have effective policies and procedures in place to make sure those using the technology are doing so in the most efficient and accurate way.

And sometimes it's not even sophisticated policies that are so crucial to aviation security. I just read this article from CBS about serious security gaps at O'Hare International Airport.

And it's not just an average traveler or some reporter saying there's a problem. The former Chicago Department of Aviation Police Chief Jim Maurer has come out blasting the airport for egregious security practices and claiming he was fired for trying to close these oversights.

He claims that thousands of people have had access to the back entrance of the airport and to security badges that allow them through that back gate while bypassing airport security.

Maurer says he tried for years to get the back gate and parking lot shut down.

"We don't patrol those lots," Maurer said. "We don't patrol the airfield itself."

The article demonstrated how those who entered through the back gate didn't get screened for weapons, could board employee busses, go onto airport runways and walk right onto the tarmac and into a terminal without getting screened.

This article also discusses issues with the access control system at the airport.

In 2007, CBS 2 also found 3,807 of the badges required to get past the back gate were missing. Maurer said he then launched an investigation and found the number was greater.

"After your story, we started looking into it," he said. "We had like 10,000 (or) 15,000 people that either had been issued badges and we never got them back, or were still getting activated badges."

Wait a minute. Back up for a second.

10,000 to 15,000 badges are unaccounted for!?
Holy moly, that's ridiculous, right? Just wait, it gets worse:

Maurer says he even found some badges were given to officials who had no business at O'Hare but used the badges for free parking. Maurer says the Transportation Security Administration got nervous and also sent letters to the city saying the back gate should be shut down.

This seems like some common sense security practices to me. I know there's been lots of debate about how well tarmacs and airfields are patrolled and secured and issues with people hopping fences and such, but not putting stronger security measures in place at the actual entrance to the airfield? I mean come on, people, that's just ridiculous. Especially at a huge airport like O'Hare. If this was your average rinky-dink regional airport (like the Portland Jetport, for example), then that's one thing MAYBE, but O'Hare? They should be one of the leaders of aviation security...

Sea-Tac goes from piecemeal to cohesion with IP


SEATTLE—It’s not uncommon for large facilities to have installed disparate security systems throughout the years as funds became available. But trying to bring all those systems together, without ripping out previous investments, was precisely the challenge the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport faced when trying to upgrade its video surveillance system.

Experts discuss convergence and progression of aviation operations at ISC West


LAS VEGAS—The ability of airports to respond quickly and efficiently to an incident has become absolutely critical, not only from a security and safety perspective, but also from an operations standpoint.

Airport makes $1.2 billion overhaul, migrates to IP


SAN JOSE, Calif.—A $1.2 billion modernization project at the Mineta San José International Airport, which is slated for completion in June, has improved the operational efficiency of the airport and enabled its transition to an IP-based security system.

TSA doc: We're not all equal in the eyes of security

Thursday, December 10, 2009

In a quick update to the latest TSA lapse, the Associated Press is reporting that five TSA employees have been put on leave pending an investigation. Everyone from Secretary Napolitano to former TSA Administrator Kip Hawley have said that the document, while not intended to be public knowledge, does not pose a threat to the traveling public.

"Hyperventilating that this is a breach of security that's going to endanger the public is flat wrong," Hawley said.

(Note they had to ask the former TSA Administrator, because guess what? The TSA has been leaderless since ole Kip was at the helm.)

There are more details about the contents of the document and some of it certainly doesn't help the TSA's public image:

Among many sensitive sections, the document outlines who is exempt from certain additional screening measures, including members of the U.S. armed forces, governors and lieutenant governors, the mayor of Washington, D.C., and their immediate families.

It also offers examples of identification documents that screeners accept, including congressional, federal air marshal and CIA ID cards

Well that would explain why Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) made this bizarre statement to Secretary Napolitano during a Congressional hearing about the 'state of security.'

I also want to highlight that I remain deeply concerned about the state of aviation security, and especially general aviation security and air cargo security ... But I mean that whenever I've been out to Dulles airport I can never remember passing through any metal detector; I never remember having any check on anything. And that should not be.

Yeah, well according to this rogue TSA document, the reason you don't experience security screening is because you have one of those handy dandy Congressional cards and TSA employees have been instructed not to screen you. So, maybe your concern about aviation security from this standpoint is not really all that legitimate after all.

And, while I like to think we're all equal in the eyes of security, which apparently we're not, there are some legitimate concerns from this document. I especially don't like the part about allowing military folks, who actually do carry weapons, to automatically bypass security. I mean, someone with an army/navy surplus store, a good tailor and high-end printer could probably forge these things fairly easily, no? Don't get me wrong though, I would like to see our service people be escorted in white limos and cut every line possible, but bypass security? Two words: Fort Hood. I think exempting military is a dangerous precedent and since these are the people who put their lives on the line to ensure security, I feel like they of all people would understand my concerns.

And finally, the TSA is always assuring the public that there is no racial profiling involved in airport screening, however, this document states that individuals with passports from Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq, Yemen, or Algeria, should be given additional screening unless there are specific instructions not to.