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9th Annual Aviation Security Summit

2010 December 30 by

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AAAE 9th Annual Aviation Security Summit
by Jeff Price

So what do the industry leaders have to say about the future of aviation security?

Let me start out by saying that everyone wants to work cooperatively, to build partnerships on an intelligence-driven-risk-based-assessment approach to reduce the size of the haystack because at the end of the day it’s all about security.

If that sounds like a convoluted sentence, it is. But, those were the terms that we heard over and over again. I might also add that those are the same terms we hear just about every year. Other recurring themes, that recurred again this year, included the usual “let’s focus on bad people not bad things,” which in the real world ends up meaning – “throw more technology at everything.”

The Opening Session

There were a few patterns that may give us some clues about the shape of things to come. Leading off the sessions this year was newly appointed TSA Administrator John Pistole and Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan Birsin. Pistole, as you know, made his big splash on the TSA scene with the enhanced pat downs and roll out of the body imagers. To be fair, the body imaging technology started deployment back in 2004 in various pilot programs and the pat downs have been around for many years, but only recently have they gotten so, well, intimate.

Pistole defended his decision to roll out the enhanced pat downs with hardly any public announcement by saying that he did not want to alert the bad guys to our vulnerabilities.

“In seeing the existing threats, we needed to be doing more than what we are doing,”  said Pistole. “We could have altered the public but my concern is that as we educated the American public we’d be educating the terrorists about our vulnerabilities.”

Pistole recently visited Yemen, where the recent attempt at bombing aircraft originated, with just a $4,200 investment on the part of al-Qaeda in the Middle East. He did not leave with a high level of confidence about their security screening. Pistole stated that there continue to be individuals that are already here in the U.S. that want to commit acts of terror. “It’s not just an over there versus over here issue.”

Back in the U.S. one of the options that security experts have promoted for years is the Israeli model of proactive profiling — determining the level of physical screening for each individuals based on an individual threat assessment. The first attempt at this model was part of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001, called Trusted Traveler. The concept, as outlined in the legislation was a program where volunteers submitted to very thorough background checks and biometrics, in trade for lesser screening at the checkpoint. At the time, the newly formed TSA quickly tossed out the term “trusted” and changed it to “registered,” and the program was defanged to the point where it became only a front-of-the-line pass for those in the program.

TSA also stated at the time that the Registered Traveler program would never be lesser screening, which flew directly in the face of both the legislation and the proven concept of profiling passengers to determine risk. However, it now looks like the program may be gaining momentum. At least Customs and Border Protection is on board with this risk based approach.

“We need your help in promoting trusted traveler programs,” said Customs Commissioner Alan Bersin. Currently, CBP’s Global Entry Program is one working model of an approach that recognizes that 99% of passengers and cargo critical to the U.S. economy are not a threat.

Bersin recognized that challenge of trusted traveler programs is that American’s don’t like to share information with their government. “It’s built into our DNA,” said Bersin. “We need to rethink that bargain. We will share information if (the government) will maintain the information in confidence and use it for the purpose in which it was solicited, and it will help facilitate our movement through not only the airport, but other waits with governmental processing; one could imagine one system that identifies you to all governmental agencies.”

Pistole seemed to be on board at least conceptually with a true trusted traveler program, saying that one of the top priorities in the DHS re-organization is to look at what makes sense in terms of trusted traveler, in terms of the passenger not to be exempt from screening and what makes sense for airports, airlines and the free flow of passengers and goods.

“We’re interested in the success of CBP and what we can learn,” Pistole said. He also noted that some of these considerations were behind the recent decision to exempt pilots from additional screening measures. However, Reno International Airport Director Krys Bart asked Pistole when additional screening exemptions will be forthcoming for airport personnel, who have access to the security areas through the airport’s access control system, but when they enter through the screening checkpoints, they are required to undergo screening. Pistole responded that there are others in the industry who believe that airport employees should go through screening every time they access the airfield and it’s a difficult issues to solve.

While TSA continues it’s chin scratching about whether trusted traveler programs will work, Pistole did point out that in the case of the recent air cargo bomb threat from Yemen, the intelligence layer did work. Al Qaeda’s English publication of Inspire magazine, their propaganda tool, recently went into great detail about how the devices were created in the computer printers and how they were cleaned so that K-9 and explosive trace detection and physical inspection could not pick up on them. Inspire’s articles also lauded the fact that the attack cost Al Qaeda $4,200 however the response by the U.S. and the world to the threat is costing billions.

He also explained why there was an immediate ban on shipping printer cartridges after the threats were discovered. “If you’re going to make two, why not make six or eight or 10?” Pistole said, inferring that the TSA made the decision based on possible additional intelligence that said other similar bombs were already constructed and in the system.

Pistole confirmed that Al Qaeda’s goal is to cause economic harm to the United States.

Customs Commissioners Bersin noted that we would not have been able to detect the cargo bombs if we had not received the intelligence tip from Saudi Arabia. Pistole said that he has less confidence in the international cargo security systems than he does about the U.S. cargo system. ICAO and IATA are among several groups currently working on upping international cargo screening standards.

The Leadership Roundtable

Next was TSA’s Leadership Roundtable, featuring John Sammon, Asst., Administrator, TSNM, Doug Hofsass, Deputy Asst. Administrator, TSNM, Robin Kane, Asst., Administrator, Security Technology, Lee Kair, Asst. Administrator, Security Operations, with AAAE’s Carter Morris, SVP, Transportation Security Policy, facilitating.

Despite all the earlier discussions of trusted traveler and behavior recognition programs, this session focused almost entirely on technology. AAAE’s Carter Morris noted that with the deployment of the AIT’s it represents the most technology into the checkpoints since 2002.

Robin Kane said that TSA is on track to complete it’s deployment of 500 Advanced Image Technology machines (the body imagers) before the end of 2010 and are also on schedule for an additional 500 to be deployed in 2011. Some airport officials criticized TSA’s deployment for both a lack of communication and a lack of accurately addressing the requirements of the AIT’s, in terms of space and power requirements. Mike Keegan from the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport thanked Kane for the AIT’s but not for the power requirements, which were much higher than what the airport officials were told by TSA.

Overall, there were several comments about TSA personnel at airports throughout the U.S. drilling holes in the floor of checkpoints and making other changes without communicating with airport personnel. TSA officials at the conference promised better communications.

Centennial Airport Director Robert Olislagers asked about the deployment of the Automatic Threat Recognition (ATR) technology that will eliminate the actual x-ray image of a person and replace it with a stick figure outline that highlights suspected threat items. Olislagers noted that he recently went through Amsterdam/Schipol airport where the technology is already in place.

Kane stated that the technology in Amsterdam experiences a 70-80% nuisance alarm rate, which is not considered operationally feasible nor desirable for the TSA. Kane did note that they have worked with the manufacturers on stricter requirements and are working on better algorithms to reduce the false alarm rates and make them ready for U.S. deployment.

Another “failure to communicate,” is with the TSA’s new Tactical Response Plans, which requires local TSA personnel to generate contingency plans based on scenarios. However, these plans aren’t always shared with airport officials or local law enforcement officers, nor are the plans coordinated with the Airport Security Program contingency or incident management plans. Lee Kair said he wants Federal Security Directors working with Airport Security Coordinators, the FBI and the airport security consortia to make sure the plans are better coordinated.

And one more failure to communicate popped up with the Screening Partnership Program (aka Opt-Out), where the State of Montana has four airports that have had applications in for contract screeners to replace the TSA personnel for over a year. Kair responded that the applications have been on hold until the new Administrator has had an opportunity to review the program and they hope to have a resolution shortly.

TSA says that the airlines have also contributed to delay at screening checkpoints with their checked baggage fees. The fees have driven up the numbers of bags that passengers carry-on, thus increasing the total number of images per passenger. Additionally, passengers bags are more cluttered making it harder to discern their contents.

“The biggest challenge we’re running into is the public’s behavior with the “turtle” bags,” noted Kair referencing what TSA calls carry on bags that are overstuffed and form a turtle shell on top. “There are more images per passenger and that’s the largest challenge we have for security.”

Screening Technology

Attempting to solve some of these problems was the Security Technology Development and Deployment presentation, facilitated by Mark Crosby, A.A.E. Chief of Public Safety and Security for Portland International Airport.

“The passenger knowing what to do is the most important element to the speed of the screening process,” noted, Peter Kant, VP, Global Government Affairs for Rapiscan Systems, one of the major technology providers for screening equipment.

This opinion was reinforced by Ellen Howe, Director of Business Development – TSA for L-3 Communications Security & Detection Systems, noting that most false alarms at the checkpoint are due to people not properly divesting.

The Large Aircraft Security Program

The Large Aircraft Security Program, rule-making for general aviation aircraft and airports is set to again make a public debut. The previous NPRM received over 10,000 comments and was so poorly conceived that it was pulled off the table. TSA decided to include industry comment during the formation of the 2nd version rather than doing it on their own.

John Sammons said that the rule-making is coming out soon, but it’s focused on the best practices, is risk-based and airplane centric, rather than putting up fences at every general aviation runway in the country. Sammons says the focus is on general aviation aircraft that go into and out of commercial service airports.

Robert Olislagers noted the differences in general aviation versus commercial service operations, saying, “we know 99% of our clients, we are very asymmetric, we don’t have public schedules or public arrivals, we are a moving target to hone in on.”

Some Interesting Quotes and Issues

“Security cannot bring business to a standstill,” Ann Zipser, Director of Global Policies & Programs, TSA. (This was nice to hear — TSA acknowledging that you cannot kill aviation while trying to protect)

In speaking to air cargo security, which is a $50 billion dollar a year business, Tim Figures, Acting Director of Transport Security and Contingencies Directorate, U.K. Department of Transport, “(they) need the opportunity to get their devices into the system at the weakest point…the challenge is that attacks have a low likelihood but a high impact.” (Figures hits the nail on the head here and reinforces the point that we must concentrate on each layer of security)

Joram Bobasch, Executive Vice President ICTS Europe Holdings, in an always entertaining and informative presentation noted that the aviation industry serves 3.3 billion people, but only gives ‘the perception of service.’ He criticized TSA for happily saying that wait times were below 30 minutes, whereas many people would never wait 30 minutes for many things, like getting a cup of coffee or waiting for a table in a restaurant. Bobasch presented a queue management system that filters individuals into 3 lanes based on an individual risk assessment.

The industry issue of where actual screening begins was brought up during the Airport Security Operations and Law Enforcement presentation featuring Francine Kerner, Chief Counsel for TSA, and Duane McGray, Executive Director of the Airport Law Enforcement Agencies Network. This is a growing challenge for the industry as it involves Fourth Amendment issues of search and seizure.

Airport police officers throughout the country are having issues with TSA finding prohibited items in checkpoint queue lines, and in public terminals. The Administrative Search clause to the Fourth Amendment says that there must be a clear point designated where the administrative screening process begins. The TSA has decided that wherever they post a sign is where the process begins. However, airport police officers and their local district attorney’s are not so certain of this definition and are still refusing in many cases to conduct searches or detain individuals. I guess the “because I said so,” argument doesn’t work so well with TSA either.

From a legislative perspective, several Congressional staffers were on hand to try to provide some clues about what will be important in the next session. Based on their comments look for:

  • A DHS reauthorization bill that will continue to address air cargo security, but also address a greater role of intelligence in counterterrorism
  • More emphasis on expanding the registered traveler program, which is apparently supported by both side of Congress
  • More emphasis on the screening partnership program

And a final issue, that comes up at every security summit is TSA’s use of Security Directives to take the place of actual rulemaking.

Reno’s Krys Bart again challenged TSA’s decisions to do no outreach to airports on the pat-down procedures before the fact and requested that TSA look at some sort of expedited rule making process, rather than misusing Security Directives

Congressional staffers his behind their usual defense by saying that they didn’t want to hinder TSA’s flexibility in responding to threats. This is an old argument with airport officials also not wanting to hinder TSA’s flexibility, but also not wanting TSA to abuse the SD process in order to avoid the longer and more difficult (but also more thorough and intelligent) process of amendments or formal rule making. The vast majority of SD’s in fact do not address specific threats, but are mainly used to finesse certain administrative procedures. I think the industry can count on SD’s continuing to be used to both address threats (what they are supposed to do), and to make rule changes in order to circumvent the NPRM or Amendment process

So, at the end of this day, everyone talked about the same things they’ve talked about since 9/11, except we didn’t hear the term “new-normal,” anymore. Everyone wants to work cooperatively, build partnerships, and reduce the size of the haystack, by using more personal contact and less technology. Maybe Pistole will be the one that actually follows this formula.

Commentary on the Security Summit:

I’ve attended the security summit just about every year since they started. Every year we hear the same things, but every year we do just the opposite. The profiling is lauded, then we get more technology into the airports. Congress promotes more private screening and registered traveler, and so far, past TSA Administrators have put both programs on either slow tracks or just outright derailed them.

Now that Customs is seeing success with their Global Entry Program and Congressional pressure on TSA continues, particularly in light of the ‘don’t touch my junk,’ body imaging and pat down controversies, perhaps 2011 will see be the year where we see a true passenger profiling program. A program that begins with the booking of the ticket, which kicks off a risk assessment process, that continues to the screening checkpoint.

Along with this, would also be a good look at employee screening. A similar risk assessment and background check program could be used to make reasonable determinations of risk with additional personnel going through physical screening and others, who require it by their job function, bypassing the checkpoints through approved access points.

Don’t look for the airlines to get rid of their checked bag fees — ever. That’s a tax-free cash cow that will not be going away. Instead, TSA and the industry should focus on changing their procedures to fit passenger travel habits, rather than trying to change the travel habits. For frequent flyers, we can move and adjust — our behavior can be modified. However, for the traveling public that once or twice a year jumps on a plane to head to Disney World’s or Aunt Edna’s for Thanksgiving, which make up the majority of the passenger traffic, we need to work on a system that better accommodates them.

Finally, the issue of where screening begins vs., airport police response needs a better solution than TSA saying “because I said so.” We need some judicial guidance here. This also brings to light the perennial issue of TSA working with the airport operator on security issues. I’ve personally seen the strides TSA has made in achieving a better understanding of airport management issues so I believe things are going the right direction. However, I hope that these attempts to actually cooperate will reach to the Administrator and senior staff ranks.

Light Sabers on the prohibited item list?

2010 April 17 by

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I guess the first interesting question is, why are light sabers on the prohibited items list? Now, I was there in 1977 when Star Wars first came out, and I’ve seen all the movies plenty of times over — and as much as I’d love to have a light saber, they are, unfortunately, a fictional weapon. And one you cannot carry on an airplane — maybe because they are afraid that a fictional Sith Lord will try to take over the plane.

Our recent trip to Italy for vacation was of course wonderful, but as an aviation security author I can’t go to any airport without observing their security practices. What I’ve learned from our trip to Italy are three main things: the Rome Airport never forgot 1985; the people in Italy don’t seem as concerned about terrorist attacks, and you can’t take a light saber on an airplane, without attracting some suspicion.

First observation: Rome Never Forgot 185

In 1985, terrorists, using guns and grenades, conducted an assault on the passenger terminal buildings in Rome, Italy and Vienna, Austria. I have railed and warned about airport attacks in the past, how this is a potential avenue for attack and how airports need to take this more seriously. Well, in Rome, they have. In fact, next to Israel, I believe they have one of the best systems for preventing an airport attack in the public area. They may have even bested Israel in some ways.

DISCLAIMER: In everything from the textbook to this blog, I never reveal anything that isn’t available to the public, through casual observation or through public sources.

Upon entering the terminal building at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci (Fiumicino) Airport you immediately notice the catwalk surrounding the check-in lines. The catwalk is patrolled by armored and armed police officers, carrying submachine guns. They have areas where they can duck behind cover and even, what I’m assuming, are bulletproof glass barriers where they can keep watch while under fire if necessary. In observing the observers (the police) these were not laid back airport cops chatting up the local gentry. These guys were seriously reviewing the crowd. When a passenger started arguing with the security person doing the document check, one of the police watched for several seconds until it was apparent the passenger was just upset, but not a threat. That’s true police work. Check out a questionable situation and make a decision about what it really is so you can focus on other threats.

In addition to the police patrolling on the catwalks, I also saw at various times, 1-3 additional police officers on the ground floor with the passengers. They weren’t always carrying submachine guns, but at least had 9mm pistols, rather than what you can still find in some U.S. airports with cops carrying old school revolvers.

Second Observation: the people in Italy don’t seem as concerned about terrorist attacks

In Italy I was more interested in sightseeing, eating and enjoying wine at lunch (and dinner), so I wasn’t conducting a formal poll, but overall it seems that folks in Italy weren’t as worried about terrorism. Maybe you just can’t attack a country with wine and coffee that is THAT good!

Entering the country at the Italian immigration and customs area, our Passports were barely even looked at and were not stamped. In fact, we were pretty much just waved through. Meanwhile, the Italian citizens had to stand in the really long line to get back into their country. It seems that Italy is more concerned about who is leaving as we all got our Passports checked and stamped on the way out. I guess they wanted to make sure we left all of our tourism dollars in Italy before allowing us to leave.

Throughout our travels on the Eurorail, it was both nice and interesting. There is no screening or visible security personnel, with the exception of the occasional guard or police officer, and even then you have to really be looking to spot one. You sort of just get on and off the train and sit and off you go. I’m reminded of the attacks on the rails in Madrid, Spain a few years ago. If this was a mass transit rail system in the U.S. there would have been 300 screeners, x-ray equipment, explosive detection machines and train marshals — that is, if we moved the kind of people the Eurorail moves — we really don’t have national rail in this country and compared to the real systems overseas, you can’t count Amtrak.

I think one major difference between the U.S. and the rest of the traveling world, is that we expect our government to protect us from all bad things that could happen to us. Meanwhile, it seems that the rest of the world takes a sort of, well, I suppose it could happen but I’m not going to worry about it. Maybe they don’t want to give up every right they have to buy some false sense of security.

What is interesting is that while there was virtually no visible security on the Eurorail, the aviation security was more intensive. For example, Italy still does the security questioning before you can get to the airline check-in area. And this is where our light saber saga begins.

Third Observation: You Can’t Carry a Light Saber on a Plane

I’m not so naive that I would try to carry even a fake weapon as carry-on baggage but this does bring up a point about the lack of common sense in aviation security practices — it’s not just a U.S. phenomena.

We had purchased some plastic light sabers for one of our kids. Why we bought something in Italy we could have bought at Target is a different story and we’re not going there. Let’s just say that I did my homework and saw the article where TSA confiscated a fake Pirates of the Caribbean sword from a kid at Disney World who’s father had died of cancer (click here for the story), so I didn’t want to take the chance that we’d have our kids toys confiscated by the Italian aviation security personnel.

The light sabers were fixed, not retractable and we when asked by the security personnel whether we had anything that looked like a weapon in our CHECKED baggage, we declared that we had them. We wanted them to be inspected in our presence rather than behind some wall where they’d possibly just get tossed and we’d get a note of apology upon our arrival in the States.

It took about 30 minutes as the US airline agents made calls, inspected the light sabers (you know, the pieces of plastic with a flashlight on the end, and keep in mind that it’s a fictional weapon, not a REAL light saber — those don’t exist, I don’t care what kind of fanboy you are) and then eventually decided that if the batteries were removed the light sabers would be “safe.” Oddly enough, the agent threw away the brand new batteries. I’m not sure why, batteries, especially in checked baggage, aren’t prohibited items.

During this time, one of the patrolling armed officers did look down. I can imagine what he was thinking: “Can’t anyone just make a common sense decision about this? It’s a fictional weapon — heck, it’s a long piece of plastic.”

And this is the problem with aviation security and common sense. Those are four words that don’t go together. We need some trust in the system. While we are grateful to US Airways for working with us and ultimately clearing the devices to fly in checked baggage, tons of time and staff effort could have been saved if the agent had just come out, seen what the device was, and made a common sense decision. In fact, if common sense and Smart Trust (as defined by Stephen M.R. Covey in The Speed of Trust) could infuse itself into the aviation security system, the system would move faster and cost less money — and we may even see some customer service and have the ability to, just like the Eurorail, travel like we did many years ago, when flying was fun.

I wonder though, would a Sith Lord need to use a light saber to hijack a plane? Couldn’t they just use the Jedi Mind Trick or that cool lightning they fire out of their hands? Maybe Sith Lord Hands are also on the prohibited items list. Bummer.

TSA forces airport to give convicted felon an ID badge!

2010 February 10 by

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As if on cue from my last blog entry, TSA has ordered Richmond airport in Virginia to issue an airport ID badge to a convicted felon, so he can work as a screener for the TSA!!!

See the article here.

In the words of our President, ‘let me be clear.’ Title 49 CFR Part 1542.209 specifies the list of disqualifying crimes — i.e. crimes that if you committed and were convicted for within the past ten years you are not allowed to be issued an airport access badge. However, this list of crimes does not take into consideration some crimes that we probably don’t want our security personnel being convicted of, such as misdemeanor theft or burglary, or accepting cash for the illegal transport of items on commercial aircraft, such as drugs and weapons.

However, airport operators, under an approved Airport Security Program (approved by TSA Federal Security Director’s BTW), do have the discretion to deny an individual a badge for other purposes, such as criminal history, or if they believe the individual will be a threat to aviation security.

Seems in the Richmond case, the criminal act occurred when the individual was 17, but the conviction came when he was 18. Okay. so there’s some leeway in the classification as to whether this hits the disqualifying crimes, but frankly, it doesn’t matter. First, why is the TSA trumping the airport’s right to deny the issuance of a badge and second, and a bigger question, why is TSA hiring convicted criminals?!

Some other issues here: Since he was convicted at 18, he was convicted and served time as an adult, but he apparently decided not to did not disclose the crime on his badge application because he committed the act when he was 17. However, he apparently was still in the FBI database and the airport discovered the conviction as part of the fingerprint-based criminal history record check. By not putting down the conviction on the badge application, and then having the airport act upon that information, this guy may also be dabbling with the definition of Fraud, under Title 49 CFR Part 1540.103. Maybe this guy was told by someone not to put down that conviction, so there’s more background work to be done here, but I’m curious how many other transportation security regulations this guy is going to try to violate as the TSA hires him to screen baggage and passengers.

And they wonder why their credibility remains an issue.

Getting it right, getting it wrong

2010 January 7 by

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It seems that Rep. John Mica has joined the opposition to the appointment of Erroll Southers to the head of TSA. Mica is criticizing what he perceives is Southers lack of executive management experience. Among rumors that Southers was nominated only after more qualified candidates passed on the opportunity as being unwilling or reluctant to serve, Mica is blasting both Southers position on collective bargaining for TSA screeners and what he calls Southers “second-tier” leadership experience.

Meanwhile, an article ran today on The Daily Breeze.com addressing measures the Los Angeles International Airport is taking to increase security. LAX has been one of the airports on the forefront of aviation security taking additional measures, studying counterterrorism methods and employing them where appropriate. Did I mention that Erroll Southers is from LAX!

After hearing Erroll lecture to a classroom full of airport security coordinator trainees in a class I was training last June in Los Angeles, I was immediately impressed with his poise, knowledge and learned perspectives on aviation and transportation security.

What TSA needs is not another career bureaucrat who specializes in distorting the truth and climbing the Beltway career ladder. They need someone from outside to come in and get things done by implementing effective transportation security measures. They need Southers.

Who is responsible for airline security?

2010 January 6 by

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Ask virtually anyone on the street “who is responsible for airline security,” and the answer will most likely be, “TSA.” Unfortunately, it’s not that simple and could mean that airlines will have to pay more and take on more security responsibilities for their international flights.

While TSA sets forth and enforces the regulations, there are many players and many layers within the aviation security system, and it’s important to know who’s who and what’s what because it could make a difference in the security of the plane you’re on.

Recently, after the failed Christmas bombing, TSA dished out several security procedures to airlines and airports, such as passengers being required to remain seated during the last hour of flight. Just as quickly, they decided that the airlines and the pilot on board could make these types of security calls. Now, TSA says that extra screening is required in certain countries before passengers are allowed to board a U.S. registered aircraft, but the international community has been slow to respond (click link). Guess they didn’t get the memo that we are in charge.

Regardless, this has brought forth the question, who is really responsible for airline and airport security. If the pilot on a particular flight elected not to tell the passengers to remain in their seats and something bad happens during this time, is it now the airline’s fault? Should we blame the pilot and sue the airline? I’m not sure that’s what we want. The pilot-in-command (i.e. the Captain) has pretty much always had the authority as the In-Flight Security Coordinator to make decisions along these lines if he or she felt it was in the legitimate interest of the safety of the flight. Not sure about this authority??? Just try standing up to go the lav when the Fasten Seat Belt light is on.

Under the Transportation Security Regulations, Title 49 Part 1544.201 Acceptance and Screening of Individuals and Accessible Property, the airline is the final authority on whether a person boards their flight. The airline is required to show that the proper screening has taken place or that other measures were used to determine that those allowed on board have been properly screened through other measures.

Since the international community has been reluctant to jump on the latest TSA mandates, does this mean that the airlines may soon have to provide their own additional security staff and take additional measures? Maybe?

Back in the late 1960s, the airlines started their own security processes because they were getting hijacked a lot and that was just bad for business. Then, in 1973, Congress made it official that the airlines were responsible for providing screening but the FAA would provide oversight and set the standards. That system stayed in place through 9/11/01.

In 1996, the Gore Commission acknowledged that aviation was so important  to the United States that aviation security is a national issue, not just an airport or airline responsibility. It was partially based on that declaration that TSA was created and took over screening functions in the U.S. after 9/11. However, that’s about where everything stopped. Beyond that point, the airlines are still responsible for ensuring that people getting on board have been properly screened and airports are still responsible for another whole host of measures — all of this largely unfunded by the Federal government. While TSA does provide air marshals, if you look at what some other airlines do throughout the world, the airline themselves provides armed airline security officers to protect their flights. Since that costs a lot of money we decided to give guns to the pilots. Maybe we should give the flight attendants better security training and arm some of them – make them actual armed security officers, similar to the Armed Security Officer program in use for corporate aviation flights into Reagan National Airport. Bet you’d really think twice about violating the Fasten Seat Belt sign warning.

I’m not suggesting that airlines actually do this or take on more responsibility, such as screening functions at foreign airports or other measures. I’m also not saying those are bad ideas. What I am saying is that maybe it’s time to re-look at our national priorities with aviation security and see if the system is set up to actually protect the traveling public, or just set up to limit the government’s liability and provide the illusion of security.

Stay tuned on this one, it’s a thought in progress.