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Thu, Nov 29, 2007

TSA To Take Over Aviation Worker Screening

Increased Oversight Part Of The Deal

Over one million workers in the aviation industry -- including pilots, technicians, and flight attendants -- will soon have to answer background questions posed by the Transportation Security Administration.

According to USA Today, the TSA will take over the job of checking background information of 1.2 million aviation employees from the FAA, which has had the job since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

With the new agency, comes increased scrutiny. Under the TSA's watch, every licensed aviation worker will be checked against the government's "watch list," maintained by the FBI, instead of the partial list maintained by the FAA. Worker backgrounds will not only be checked when applying for a job, but every time the computerized database is updated -- which occurs almost daily.

TSA spokeswoman Ellen Howe said such "perpetual vetting" measures "will raise the baseline of security."

It does appear that baseline needs to be raised. As ANN reported earlier this month, federal and local law enforcement agents raided numerous warehouses around Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, and arrested 24 illegal workers suspected of using phony security badges to work in restricted areas around the airport -- the latest evidence of systemic flaws in the security grid at that airport.

Last month, a former Comair worker based in Orlando was sentenced to 15 years in prison for attempting to smuggle guns and drugs on a Delta Connection/Comair flight to Puerto Rico in March. Thomas Anthony Munoz, 22, was arrested when he was found to have 13 handguns, an assault rifle and eight clear bags of marijuana, as ANN reported.

The change was met with cautious approval from pilot groups, who approve of the TSA's plans in theory. Some fear TSA bungling may confuse legitimate applicants with names on the watch list, though, preventing people from working.

"It would seem to be a logical step for the TSA," said Capt. Bob Hesselbein, chairman of the Air Line Pilots Association's national security committee, before adding "We don't know that their processes will not misidentify people who are not a danger as a danger."

FMI: www.tsa.gov

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