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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

You're in Good Hands with Homeland Security?

I am not an expert on port security. I have to place my faith in others. President Bush says, under the threat of his first veto, that we should allow a state-owned company from Dubai to take control of port terminals in six eastern cities. The Homeland Security Administration has checked this out thoroughly I am told, so there's no need to worry. Still, I wonder:

'Security' Without Sense, by Scott Wallace, Sunday Outlook, Washington Post: It has been almost two months since I resigned from the Department of Homeland Security's Transportation Security Administration (TSA). I had served as a security screener at Dulles International Airport for more than three years. Even now, I can scarcely believe some of the absurdities I experienced as a screener. ... the TSA's policies regarding what is acceptable to carry onto an airplane mock security rather than enhance it. ...

Visitors to Dulles see posters at the checkpoints with the word "WARNING" in large red letters, followed by the information that "passengers are advised that the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security has determined that Bandara Ngurah Rai International Airport, Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia, and Port au Prince International Airport, Haiti, do not maintain and administer effective aviation security measures." That's good to know, but what about Washington Dulles International Airport?

At Dulles, an entry point to the "sterile" area, the part of the airport supposedly restricted to those who have gone through a security check, is known as the SIDA door (SIDA stands for Security Identification Display Area). Workers with airport badges can pass through this door with knapsacks, book bags, you name it, without going through the TSA checkpoints upstairs. But pilots, flight attendants and TSA employees -- all of whom have passed background checks before being hired -- are not permitted to access the sterile area through the SIDA door. They must go through the same TSA checkpoints used by passengers.

The Department of Homeland Security might want to address an issue such as the SIDA door at Dulles before warning travelers about Bali and Port au Prince. At the TSA, truth indeed is stranger than fiction.

    Posted by on Tuesday, February 21, 2006 at 04:46 PM in Politics, Terrorism | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (4)

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