Threats to Airport Security: Not What You Think

Do you remember when you could light up a cigarette, cigar, or pipe on the airplane? It seemed like the best alternative to a dry, day old sandwich and salted peanuts that left you begging the flight attendant for a drink. Of course, in those days travelers did not have to take their shoes off before stripping down to their skivvies for a security check for explosive materials and illegal paraphernalia either. But that all changed after an uptick in terrorist related bombings of which climaxed in September 11, 2001 when four airliners were hijacked.

Now many people walk through the airport with a “Nothing is going to happen, right?” attitude after hearing security warnings about unattended bags and elevated terror threat levels. Thinking about such things is justified in light of recent protests, previous bombings, and attacks. However, per a 2-year long report from the Homeland Security Committee titled “America’s Airports: The Threats from Within”, unattended bags, security checks, and suspicious individuals are not the only threats to a passenger’s sanity and safety. The report states that of the 900,000 people who work at 450 airports nationwide, “…many are able to bypass traditional screening requirements that travelers visiting the airports must endure.” The report goes on to say that “…there are increasing concerns that insider threats to aviation security are on the rise.” Threats posed by disgruntled employees are perhaps the most difficult to detect due to knowledge on how to exploit security weaknesses. Although difficult to detect, the report provides nine ways to mitigate these threats and more. The top three are:

(1) “Airport operators and air carriers should work to better educate aviation workers on their role in mitigating insider threats and securing access to sensitive areas of airports.”

(2) “Airports and TSA should reassess credentialing practices to ensure that individuals with access to secure and sterile areas of airports are held to stringent standards and are regularly reassessed for the risk an individual may pose to aviation security.”

(3) “Airports and air carriers should examine the costs and feasibility of expanding the physical screening of employees.”

In order to read the remaining six ways on how to mitigate insider threats in aviation security click on the link above or visit the Homeland Security Digital Library. Some materials may require HSDL login.