T.S.A. Calls for Armed Guards at Airport Checkpoints
By RON NIXONMARCH 26, 2014
WASHINGTON — The Transportation Security Administration is recommending that armed personnel be present at airport checkpoints during peak hours of passenger traffic, though airports would be able to tailor the security to their specific needs, according to a report released on Wednesday.
The T.S.A.’s report also suggests that security be increased at ticket counters and other areas in airports where passengers often gather. And it recommends mandatory training for all T.S.A. employees on how to respond to a shooting; twice-yearly evacuation drills; and the installation of panic buttons at airports that do not have them — and routine testing of such alerts.
The report, which was first obtained by The Associated Press, was in response to a shooting last year at Los Angeles International Airport in which a worker was killed.
The report’s recommendations are limited in scope. They would not require airports to hire new officers, only to reassign those who are already on duty, concentrating them at checkpoints and ticket counters during peak periods of passenger arrivals and departures.
The report recommends that, because of jurisdictional issues, airport police officers, not T.S.A. officers, should provide the armed security at checkpoints.
But the T.S.A. said that its Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response squads would also increase the number of their airport patrols. The agency created the special units in 2005 to perform random security sweeps aimed at preventing terrorist attacks.
“The report released today outlines the actions T.S.A. took immediately following the shooting and new procedures to enhance the safety and security of T.S.A. employees nationwide, especially those who work on the front lines each and every day to protect the traveling public,” the agency’s administrator, John S. Pistole, said in a statement.
Mr. Pistole is scheduled to present the report to Congress on Friday when he testifies at a field hearing of the House Committee on Homeland Security in Los Angeles.
Gerardo I. Hernandez, a T.S.A. officer, was killed in the Los Angeles shooting. He was the first officer at the agency — which was created two months after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — to die in the line of duty.
Paul A. Ciancia, 24, an unemployed mechanic, has been charged in the shooting. Law enforcement officials said the gunman targeted T.S.A. workers, although his motives were unclear. A passenger and two other law enforcement officials were injured in the shooting, and Mr. Ciancia was wounded. A federal grand jury indicted him in December on 11 charges, including murder and attempted murder. He is being held without bail at a detention center in San Bernardino County.
Jon Adler, president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, which represents more than 25,000 federal officers, including T.S.A. workers, said his group supported the report’s recommendations.
Mr. Adler said his association had long suggested that armed officers be present at security checkpoints and other areas of airports that have high passenger traffic.
“This is a common-sense thing to do,” he said. “You can’t bring a government pen to a gunfight.”http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/27/business/tsa-calls-for-armed-guards-at-airport-checkpoints.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=1