Congress wants answers about 'no-screening' policy for airport screeners

4:20 PM, Sep 25, 2008   |    comments
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The new policy at airports nationwide took affect on Sept. 11.

"This sudden change in policy deserves further explanation because it may significantly affect aviation security operations and potentially alarm the public," wrote Reps. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colorado), Bennie Thompson (D-Mississippi) and Shelia Jackson-Lee (D-Texas).

Among other things, the representatives have asked the TSA to explain why the new policy was put in place, demonstrate if the new policy is effective and explain how the screeners will be screened randomly. The representatives have asked the TSA to put its answers in writing no later than Oct. 9.

Last week, a 9Wants to Know investigation found that screeners were bypassing security because of a new non-screening policy. The TSA said that screeners and their belongings don't have to be examined when they go behind security lines because screeners have had background checks and should be trusted. The TSA also says that officers will be screened randomly, without warning, periodically.

Sources told 9Wants to Know that the new policy was put in place after TSA officers were outfitted with new uniforms and badges. The new metal badges set off the metal detectors. Sources told 9NEWS that the TSA did not want screeners removing their badges in the security line where they could be misplaced or stolen.

However, TSA Regional Public Affairs Manager Carrie Harmon says the new policy had nothing to do with the new uniforms and badges.

"We have a finite amount of resources and we allocate those where we think the risk is greatest," said Harmon. "It's based on experience, it's based on intelligence, it's based on knowledge of our people and our processes."

Experts point out that other airport workers, such as mechanics and food and fuel delivery persons do not go through security screening checkpoints every day either. Those workers, who have access to airplanes, have airport security badges and have been given background checks. The new TSA policy adds another group to the list of workers who are not physically screened every day at the airport.

The TSA says it changed the uniforms for its 43,000 employees to bring them more in line with other security professionals within the DHS.

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