• Houston police nab TSA thief

    In a sting operation, Houston police office arrested a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screener for stealing from passengers at the city’s Intercontinental Airport; Houston’s Intercontinental Airport has had a history of reported thefts; in August 2003 local police arrested another TSA screener for stealing items from passenger’s bags

  • House wants to know about racial profiling at Newark airport

    After a federal report revealed that behavior detection officers (BDOs) at New Jersey’s Newark airport routinely used racial profiling to screen passengers, the heads of the House Homeland Security Committee are demanding answers; according to the January 2010 report, in an effort to boost its performance numbers and appear productive, Newark’s BDO unit began singling out Hispanic passengers for additional screening, searches, and questioning in 2008 and 2009

  • U.K. bans UPS air cargo screening

    The U.K. government appears to have lost confidence in the security screening procedure of UPS – and has now banned UPS from screening air cargo at some facilities in the United Kingdom; last year, a printer filled with explosives was found on a UPS U.S.-bound flight — but the printer was found not because of UPS screnning but owing to a tip-off from an informer; in March, the U.K. security services placed a fake bomb on an Istanbul-bound UPS flight, and the bomb made it to Turkey without being detected

  • Mud triggers Logan alarm

    Scanning machines at Logan Airport detected minute traces of nitrates in a checked luggage, and sounded the alarm; two gates were evacuated as a precaution; police found that the nitrates emanated from mud sample a Honk Kong University doctoral student was carrying in the luggage; the samples were to be used in research

  • Airport Checkpoint of the Future unveiled

    Attendees of the 67th annual Air Transport Association (IATA) annual meeting and World Air Transport Summit in Singapore got a first look at a prototype version of the airport security Checkpoint of the Future; the prototype checkpoint is specifically designed to allow passengers to pass through without having to remove their shoes or get patted down; to make travelling more pleasant and less invasive, the new security checkpoint is outfitted with a suite of sophisticated sensors including eye scanners, x-rays, and metal and liquid detectors

  • House representatives battle for control of TSA

    Representatives Pete King (R-New York) and John Mica (R-Florida) are battling for control over jurisdiction of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA); currently, King’s Homeland Security Committee oversees TSA as airport security checkpoints are manned by DHS employees — making TSA the only government transportation agency that Mica’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee does not have jurisdiction over; last week Mica introduced an amendment that could place TSA under his committee’s control by moving to require TSA to hire private contractors to conduct airport screenings, thus removing DHS from the equation — and from King’s jurisdiction

  • New detection system uses ultraviolet light to spot explosives

    More than 625 million travelers will take to the air before 2011 is over; the passengers’ carry-on luggage and checked baggage are screened for explosives — but University of Florida researchers say there is a better way to do so; the UF scientists say they have developed the first explosive detection system in the world that utilizes ultraviolet light to zero in on specks of dangerous explosives found in and on luggage; the explosives detection market is estimated to exceed $3 billion in the U.S. alone

  • Justice Department threatens to cancel flights to Texas

    Last week, Texas lawmakers were forced to back away from a bill that would have outlawed airport pat-downs after the U.S. attorney general’s office threatened to cancel flights to Texas; the Texas House passed a bill that would have made it illegal for Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents from conducting thorough pat downs at airport security checkpoints unless they had probable cause; the U.S. attorney general said that the law would be unconstitutional, and if passed, TSA would be forced to cancel flights to Texas

  • Scientists continue to raise doubts about safety of full body scanners

    The controversy over the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) body scanners lingers on as scientists continue to question the safety of these devices that expose millions of people to trace amounts of radiation; TSA officials maintain that their full body x-ray scanners are safe as they only expose individuals to negligible amounts of radiation, the equivalent of two minutes of flying; despite these assurances, a group of five scientists recently sent an open letter to the White House Science advisor; the scientists argue that the tests used to validate TSA’s claims contain critical flaws, lack transparency, and have not been independently verified

  • Texas House prohibits intrusive airport pat downs

    The Texas House of Representatives approved a bill that would make invasive pat downs at airports a crime; pat down procedures that would be covered under the measure are inspections that touch the anus, sexual organ, buttocks, or breast of another person including through the clothing, or touches the other person in a manner that would be offensive to a reasonable person; the law would not be enforceable since state legislatures have no authority over federal agencies such as the TSA

  • EU proposes recording all data on airline passengers, including their meals

    To help combat terrorism, the United Kingdom hopes to join a European Union information sharing database; under the proposed program, dubbed the Passenger Name Record directive, authorities will collect detailed information on airline passengers including their phone number and how they paid for their ticket as well as a credit card details and billing addresses; a passenger’s information will be stored up to five years and after the first thirty days the details will be made anonymous; any European Union member state can search through the database as it conducts counter-terrorism investigations; the proposal has yet to be approved and has generated its fair share of critics

  • TSA pats down eight-month-old baby

    A photo of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents patting down an eight-month old baby at Kansas City International Airport is the latest viral internet sensation in the ongoing criticism of TSA security procedures; the photo shows TSA screeners searching the baby while the mother holds the child in her arms; the photo was posted on Twitter on 7 May and since then has been viewed more than 200,000 times; after reviewing the incident TSA said it followed proper protocol

  • Dayton installs automated baggage screening system at airport

    On 17 May Dayton International Airport in Ohio will begin using a sophisticated new automated baggage screening system that will save time and resources; using a series of machines, the new system will automatically screen luggage for explosives; any suspicious bags will be flagged and sent to security screeners for more careful examination; TSA officials hope that the new machines will help reduce check-in times for passengers, increase efficiency, and even minimize the number of screeners needed

  • TSA launches smartphone app to make travelling easier

    To help make a passenger’s airport experience more pleasant and to minimize delays at checkpoints, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recently launched its MyTSA smartphone app; the app will provide travelers with official answers to the most commonly asked questions regarding security procedures at airport checkpoints; it also allows users to determine what they can or cannot bring, see airport delays in real-time, and estimate how long waits are at checkpoints; it is currently available for free on the Apple iPhone

  • Critical safety and security flaws in airplane maintenance outsourcing

    A recent study found that airlines outsourcing their maintenance work could prove to be a major security gap and result in unreliable planes; the Transport Workers Union found that when major U.S. airlines outsource their work they have little training, oversight, or safety measures in place to ensure that the workers they hire perform quality work and do not pose a security threat; at least one member of al-Qaeda has been found working in a major maintenance facility in Singapore in 2003; the lack of training and certification could also result in shoddy airplane repair work; there are only 100 FAA inspectors for over 700 overseas maintenance facilities