Still Shaking My Head
- By Ralph C. Jensen
- Dec 01, 2013
I fly a lot of miles every year, perhaps even as many
as you. We work in an industry that requires personal
contact, getting out of the office and understanding
what physical security is all about. I have a
favorite airline—American Airlines—largely because
their headquarters are in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area;
but also because, I appreciate their services.
No matter what airline you fly, at home or overseas,
there is one thing all airports have in common.
Airline passengers must pass through security, which
means a careful examination by Transportation Security
Administration (TSA) officers, and depending
upon the airport, the number of agents range from a
handful to hundreds.
TSA agents have had their share of troubles and
missteps, but what organization hasn’t? The one thing
they don’t deserve is another person shooting at them
as they work on the front lines of airport security.
In late October, 23-year-old Paul Anthony Ciancia
pulled a semiautomatic rifle from a bag and began a
rampage of shooting at a security checkpoint at Los
Angeles International Airport (LAX).
As you may already know, TSA official Gerardo I.
Hernandez, age 39, was killed. Hernandez is the first
casualty in the line of duty since TSA was formed
about 12 years ago, and he was honored by his comrades
on Nov. 12. Two other agents and an airline
passenger were wounded as a result of the barrage
When is this kind of activity going to stop? What is
it that causes one human being to kill another?
In the wake of this horrifying attack, security at
the nation’s airports will be under review. Attorney
General Eric Holder said, “The responsibility for protecting
airports’ security is not a TSA function, but
it’s something that we need to examine, given what
happened in Los Angeles.”
The function of TSA is to ensure that people can
board planes and take flights safely.
Security at the nation’s airports was already a
nightmare, and now, that will likely change because
one person’s selfish interests places a burden on all
other passengers and security staff alike.
Ciancia was shot by airport police, but only a coward
takes aim at an unarmed person. In a note found
within his belongings, Ciancia wrote that he was gunning
for TSA agents as part of a suicide mission. In
part, his note read, “I’m going to kill people, and I
don’t want to kill civilians.” That same handwritten
letter, which was signed by Ciancia, included the
threat to “instill fear in your traitorous minds.”
People aren’t afraid of Ciancia, and he does not
instill fear in anyone’s mind. The general public continues
to board planes, travel and take care of business
on a daily basis. It is entirely unfortunate that one
person had to die because another person thought his
agenda was more important than a life.
On Nov. 7, TSA administrator John S. Pistole met
with more than 20 security organizations to hear their
input on airport security for TSA employees, airport
and law enforcement officials, and the more than 1.8
million passengers who travel each day.
TSA understands that threats to aviation security
continue to evolve. They are more sophisticated and
more complex than ever before. Agency officials must
use every tool at their disposal to address those threats
and develop methods for combating them. The use of
new and innovative technology helps them stay ahead
of those intent on harming our nation.
Pistole expressed his commitment to working with
other leaders in the airport security community to
ensure everything is done to keep airports safe and
secure for employees and the traveling public alike.
He reinforced TSA’s ongoing commitment to working
collaboratively to stay ahead of evolving threats.
In the world that we now know, there are threats
each and every day. Most are unexpected and come
with a surprise.
I used to take for granted the work performed by
TSA agents—until now. Sure, they have become a fixture
at every airport in the nation, and their work goes
unheralded. It’s a shame something like this has to happen
to remind the traveling public that these are people
trying to do a good job at keeping everyone safe.
As TSA constantly moves forward with its technology
usage, I am sure they know there’s no silverbullet
technology, no cure all, no end-all-be-all; but,
when used by its highly-trained workforce and combined
with the other layers of security, technology
helps close down vulnerabilities.
Their strategy involves more than just screening
all carry-on and checked baggage. At their disposal,
TSA agents use careful analysis of intelligence to determine
where best to deploy its technology resources
at airports, in subways, at ports and on rail. Daily
vetting of passengers and airport employees against
watch lists helps protect airports. And, biometrics
helps prevent unauthorized access at our nations’
ports. That is only the beginning.
I pledge to be more appreciative of the work responsibilities
of TSA agents. I hope you will join me
in respecting the work of TSA agents by offering
them a “job well done” and a “thank you.”
This article originally appeared in the December 2013 issue of Security Today.