Tales from the TSA
Although the FBI eventually cleared the man of wrongdoing, police officials have transferred the officer involved and are investigating the incident while insisting that the TSA, not police, has the authority to keep a suspicious person from boarding a flight.
"Our job is not to be the gatekeepers," police Capt. Dwayne Ready said. "That burden falls squarely on the airline and TSA to make that final decision.
"We are looking at our role in the situation to make sure our policies were adhered to," he said. "During follow-up, we are finding that there simply was not a material threat."
TSA spokeswoman Andrea McCauley said screeners have the authority to stop people from going beyond the checkpoint to the boarding areas, but they rely heavily on local police.
"It's just agencies talking with each other," Ready said, downplaying the disagreement.
Details of the dispute
McCauley and Ready would not comment about the June 26 incident, but a confidential TSA report obtained by the Houston Chronicle details a dispute between screeners and a police officer on duty at the airport.
The report states that a man with a Middle Eastern name and a ticket for a Delta Airlines flight to Atlanta shook his head when screeners asked if he had a laptop computer in his baggage, but an X-ray machine operator detected a laptop.
A search of the man's baggage revealed a clock with a 9-volt battery taped to it and a copy of the Quran, the report said. A screener examined the man's shoes and determined that the "entire soles of both shoes were gutted out."
No explosive material was detected, the report states. A police officer was summoned and questioned the man, examined his identification, shoes and the clock, then cleared him for travel, according to the report.
A TSA screener disagreed with the officer, saying "the shoes had been tampered with and there were all the components of (a bomb) except the explosive itself," the report says.
The officer retorted, "I thought y'all were trained in this stuff," TSA officials reported.
Just try CNN, BBC, ABC, FOX, Reuters, all those online news agencies - saw that one on somebodys site.
Joes portly antipodean pal
He just wants my port and cherry ripes
Like that is going to fool anybody!
Airport screeners across the nation have confiscated 16 million of the devices in one year.
As a smoker, Beth Nettels sympathizes with travelers whose cigarette lighters are seized at the airport.
So, before boarding a flight, she tries helping the next passenger. She leaves her lighter on a bench outside the terminal. Itâ€™s a tiny act of generosity she thinks should be unnecessary.
â€œLighters are not a risk,â€ the University of Kansas student said last week as she puffed on a cigarette outside Terminal C at Kansas City International Airport. â€œYou can take matches aboard a plane and they can start something.â€
Federal regulators are starting to see things Nettelsâ€™ way.
Momentum is building to lift the ban, which took effect in April 2005. Since then, security screeners have confiscated 16 million lighters, which typically cost $1 to $2 each unless they are luxury models.
It costs the government $6 million to dispose of the lighters, about $4 million more than it cost to get rid of all confiscated items before the lighter ban, according to the Transportation Security Administration.
Devon Hall says she didn't know she had her husband's fishing knife in her bag when she approached the security checkpoint at Houston's Hobby Airport last month.
The Jamaica Beach, Texas, comedian surrendered the knife after it showed up on the scanner, she says. She thought that was the end of the matter until she received a letter from the Transportation Security Administration saying she owed a $250 fine, reduced to $125 if paid within 30 days.
Hall was shocked: "It was a mistake, but it's going to cost me. All of us that travel a lot need to know (a fine is possible)."
Bringing a prohibited item to a checkpoint â€” even accidentally â€” is illegal, according to the TSA. Your confiscated Swiss army knife probably won't draw a fine, TSA spokeswoman Amy Von Walter says. "We're looking at items that are weapons ... or aggravated circumstances, such as interfering with a screener."
Von Walter says screeners don't decide on the spot who'll be fined; their reports are reviewed by a higher-up, who determines whether a "notice of violation" will be sent.
Her experience and that of other fliers show how confusion still marks the post-9/11 airport security-screening experience. Despite TSA's efforts to clarify what is allowed and what is not at security checkpoints, uncertainty and frustration still are in the air.
Less than seven months after the Transportation Security Administration reversed its ban on small scissors, screwdrivers and such from passenger cabins on commercial airliners, Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., slipped an amendment into a House bill for the TSA that would make such items verboten again.
Last December, the TSA relaxed its rules because of improvements in cabin security post-Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists used box cutters to commandeer four airplanes. But the nation's major flight attendants' unions, saying that sharp items in the hands of troubled passengers remain a peril, have been lobbying to reinstate them.
The House homeland security committee bought into the ban last week, but its ultimate fate remains up in the air.
The federal Transportation Security Administration employs 43,000 screeners nationwide, 260 at Pittsburgh International Airport. As many as one in five screeners leave their jobs because advancement opportunities were limited. For every screener who leaves, TSA has to spend an estimated $12,000 to recruit and train a new one.
Entry-level screeners currently earn between $23,600 and $35,400 a year, but with the promotion, they will be able to make up to $40,700. Screeners with at least two years' experience will be able to compete for an expanded number of specialized positions that pay up to $56,400.
SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) â€” Both terminals at John Wayne Airport were temporarily evacuated Sunday evening and passengers were taken off airplanes after a female passenger made it past a security checkpoint without being screened, authorities said.
Hundreds of travelers â€” even those aboard airplanes â€” were required to undergo a second security check, said Nico Melendez of the Transportation Security Administration.
Six outgoing flights were delayed as passengers were re-screened and put back on the planes, Melendez said. Authorities did not provide details Sunday night about who slipped past security or how she managed to do so.
An alarm sounded shortly after 5:30 p.m. and Orange County Sheriff's deputies and airport security began evacuating the terminals. Lines snaked out the doors as travelers lined up again in front of checkpoints.
"Innocent passengers are being entered into an international intelligence database as suspicious persons, acting in a suspicious manner on an aircraft ... and they did nothing wrong," said one federal air marshal.
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