Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson announced a series of new steps aimed at making airline travel more safe, which includes a new directive requiring all airport and airline workers to be screened by the Transportation Security Administration before boarding a flight, just like regular passengers.
Johnson's directive was issued just months after reports that a Delta Air Lines worker was charged with using his security clearance at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson airport to smuggle weapons up to New York. Officials said more than 150 guns were smuggled to New York in this way, which raised new questions about what further steps can be taken to clamp down on these activities.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, all airport and airline workers will now be required to be screened by the Transportation Security Administration when they fly as passengers, just like everyone else.
Those charges led to fears that airport or airline workers might easily conspire to place a bomb on an airplane, with minimal security obstacles. In response, Johnson asked the Aviation Security Advisory Committee (ASAC) to report back in 90 days about how to beef up security.
That panel said in its final report that it would be difficult screen all workers at their workplaces, or even to screen them all when they board flights as passengers. But Johnson said nonetheless that one of his orders would be to "require airport and airline employees traveling as passengers to be screened by TSA prior to travel."
Johnson also said he would require "fingerprint-based criminal history records checks every two years" for anyone holding a badge, until TSA sets up a "real time recurrent" criminal background check. The secretary said he would require airports to make it harder for employees to access secured areas, and subject airport and airline workers to random screening.
The advisory committee said that last change is needed so that "every employee entering or working in a secured area of an airport has the expectation that they will be subjected to screening/inspection."
"I am confident that the potential insider-threat posed by aviation industry employees will be significantly mitigated as a result of these recommendations," Johnson said.