WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Maine, Wednesday concluded that the strict, layered security measures the Transportation Service Administration (TSA) requires at airport checkpoints are still necessary given what those checkpoints turn up every day.
TSA Administrator John Pistole told the Senators at a hearing on the future of aviation security that four to five guns are discovered at checkpoints around the country on a daily basis.
But those security measures and TSA’s limited resources need to be targeted more directly at passengers who pose the greatest risk, the Senators said. TSA also needs to think creatively about better uses of technology and information in the screening process.
“When you tell us four or five weapons are found in carry-on luggage every day, we are reminded why TSA’s security efforts are so essential,” Lieberman said. “What TSA officers do at airport security checkpoints is for the security of the general public. We want you to carry out your mission in the most cost effective and technologically progressive way you can.”
Collins said: “Aviation security is clearly critical to homeland security. We Americans have demonstrated our willingness to endure enhanced security measures at our airports -- if those measures appear reasonable and related to the real risks. But travelers become frustrated when security measures inconvenience them without cause, or when they appear to be focused on those who pose no threat. Recently, the Administration has implemented a risk analysis to improve the screening process, a welcome change. Some of the changes will also answer several of our common airport screening complaints. Frequent fliers who opt-in to a known-traveler program will often get to keep their shoes on and their lap tops in the bags. TSA has also changed the screening procedures for children under 12 -- a commonsense decision that was overdue.”
At the 11th hearing in a yearlong series assessing changes made to federal programs and services that failed us on 9/11, Pistole promoted a TSA pilot program that pre-screens passengers, so when they arrive at an airport, they may be eligible for expedited screening.
Other than Pistole, witnesses at the hearing included: Roger Dow, President and Chief Executive Officer of the U.S. Travel Association; Kenneth Dunlap, Global Director of Security and Travel Facilitation at the International Air Transport Association; and Charles Barclay, President of the American Association of Airport Executives.