Missing Or Unaccounted-For Badges Number In The Thousands
In a report with sweeping
implications, Chicago TV news station CBS2 uncovered a problem with
security badges at the city's O'Hare airport. The station found
that persons with a security badge get into the airport through an
employee side gate lacking any of the security measures employed by
TSA to screen airline passengers.
So what, you say, as long as those persons are authorized to be
there it shouldn't be a problem, that's what the badge is for
In its report, however, CBS2 says since 2004 the city's
Department of Aviation has recorded 3,760 missing badges issued to
airline, private contractor and government employees. The
badges were not returned by employees who quit or were reassigned
and include among them Illinois state police officers, FBI agents,
federal air marshals, US customs agents and workers at the city's
Department of Aviation office itself.
Although the badges are eventually deactivated electronically,
which prevents them from opening any gates, it can sometimes
take weeks for the system to update. And even though the TSA runs
random checks of personnel entering through the gate, security
isn't permanently stationed there. That means anyone with a badge
can let someone else without a badge through the gate.
TSA acknowledges they wouldn't know if a person gained access to
the airport's secure area using badge that's supposed to
In one case, the station tracked down a former employee, Obang
Omat from Sudan, who quit in September last year, but the city's
aviation department records showed his badge as activate until
November 14. He says he sent his badge back to the company in
September by mail from Minneapolis.
Omat has a criminal record in Chicago's Cook county showing
seven arrests including aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. He
was eventually convicted on charges of resisting arrest and
reckless conduct. The city's aviation department still lists his
badge as missing.
Aviation security expert Charles Slepian told CBS2, "It should
be a matter of law. If you keep your badge after you have been
terminated it should be a criminal act. I guess the bottom line is,
the badge, in and of itself, doesn't provide a heck of a lot of
The station said it first learned of the gaping security hole
when confidential records containing sensitive employee information
-- FBI fingerprint and signed badge application forms, employees'
social security numbers, addresses, copies of birth certificates,
etc. -- were tossed, unshredded, in an airport dumpster by Scrub
Inc., an airport contractor.
Omat is a former Scrub employee.
TSA deputy assistant administrator Earl Morris told the station,
"First of all we take that very, very seriously because we work
closely with airports across the country. We will work with the
airport to fix the problem. It is not something we condone or think
is acceptable. It is totally unacceptable. I can’t reiterate
strong enough that is totally unacceptable."
A spokesman for Scrub refused to discuss with the station
specific questions regarding Omat or the other 148 missing badges
the company hasn't returned to the city's aviation department
saying, "It is Scrub Inc.’s position that we cannot discuss
any security matters related to O’Hare International