Monday, January 4, 2010

They Just Can't Get Security Right

By GARY BAUMGARTEN
Paltalk News Network

Last night's security breach at Newark International Airport is just another piece of evidence that shows that the people responsible for making flying safe just can't get it right.

As with the Christmas Day attempt to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight - the successful breach and disruption for hours of air traffic at Terminal C at Newark is now subject to Monday morning quarterbacking.

We've all seen TSA screeners at the exits to secure airport corridors. Their job is to make sure no one goes in through the exit circumventing security.

But, typically, there is but one person sitting there. And that person is unarmed. Which means that, if someone wanders in the wrong way - he or she is not in a position to stop them.

The TSA screener can, of course, redirect a person. But if those orders fall on deaf ears, there's really no way to stop them from entering the sterile environment.

At that point, the screener can hardly abandon the post and chase the person down. That would leave the exit unattended - clearing the way for others to go in the wrong way.

So the only thing that can be done is report the infraction, shut down the terminal, search for the individual, and if that search proves unsuccessful, empty the terminal of everyone, search for weapons or explosives, and then rescreen all those who have been removed.

Last night, it took nearly seven hours before the rescreening was reestablished. And that's just the start of the rescreening. How long do you think it took to complete that and then get just the first flight in the air? Not to mention the fact that the flight crews had now been on duty for more than eight hours. On the ground - but on duty. How many of them had to be relieved? How long before everyone was back up in the air? Just because one person went into the corridor via the exit.

In some airports, they have one way revolving doors you have to go through to get out. Which means no one can wander in the wrong way.

But not at Newark Airport's Terminal C.

Common sense could have prevented the Christmas Day attempt on the Northwest Airlines flight. Common sense could have prevented last night's Newark Airport debacle as well.

Common sense would have dictated full body screening, as well, before the Christmas Day attempt.

You don't have to be a security expert to know that there was enough intelligence to place the suspect in the Northwest attempt on no-fly and do not enter the country lists. Nor do you have to be a security expert to know that one TSA screener at an open exit can't really prevent an intrusion. Imagine, if you will, if it were not just one person wandering in the wrong way. What if it were a coordinated attack with a dozen armed individuals who then forced their way onto a plane? Inconceivable? Not in these times it isn't.

I'm not saying the folks in charge of airport security aren't trying. They are. But they know, better than the rest of us, that the measures in place just aren't enough. They serve as window dressing. But they can't stop a well planned coordinated attack.

There have been repeated cases of random tests conducted at airport where inert explosive devices have gotten through the screening process. Some of those tests have been conducted at Newark International Airport.

All this doesn't do much to instill confidence in the flying public. All it will take is one successful attack on a plane to bring the airline industry to its knees. If those responsible for airport security don't care about the loss of life, they should at least worry about that.

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