Wants TSA To Report On Progress By February 18
Mississippi Congressman Bennie
Thompson has given the Transportation Security Administration two
weeks to report to his committee what the agency is doing to
positively identify police officers, before allowing them to bring
their guns with them onto airliners.
"As you know, I have a strong interest in more being done to
ensure that individuals who present themselves as law enforcement
officers and seek to travel armed on commercial flights are
identified and verified," Thompson wrote in a letter earlier this
month to TSA chief Kip Hawley.
The Clarion-Ledger reports the letter follows the discovery
Jackson Mayor Frank Melton was apparently allowed to board
airliners with a gun, after presenting a gold-colored badge and
letter from a former Jackson police chief.
Federal regulations require passengers to present an airline
representative with a photo ID identifying themselves as a law
enforcement officer, and a letter from their respective agency,
before they are allowed to pass through security with their weapon.
The regs don't require anyone to independently verify the person in
question actually IS a law enforcement officer, however.
"As everyone knows, anybody can have an official-looking badge.
Anybody can have a letter saying they are authorized to carry a
weapon," TSA spokesman Christopher White said last month. "That is
Officials at Jackson-Evers International Airport put a stop to
Melton's boarding with a firearm in 2006... but the loophole still
exists. "How hard is it to fake letterhead from a police
department?" said Hudson Institute senior fell Christopher Sands.
"And you are putting that on an airline employee? What the heck do
they know? They aren't federally trained."
In 2007, Thompson sponsored a bill ordering the creation of a
biometric ID system for armed passengers by January 3, 2009. The
law essentially requires a whole new high-tech system, for which
TSA has no budget.
In that sense, Thompson's latest letter may actually be welcomed
at TSA, as it could provide an opportunity to request that extra
money. The letter requires TSA to respond to the congressman by