Slain TSA Officer Honored

Slain TSA Officer Honored

It was recently revealed that Congress, as a whole, has an approval rating of about 12 percent. I think that number is greatly exaggerated, but that doesn’t mean one or two of the members of Congress won’t do something right, once in a while.

The House recently passed legislation intended to enhance security at U.S. Airports.

One bill, the Gerardo Hernandez Airport Security Act (H.R. 720) would require TSA to verify that all airports have adequate emergency plans to deal with shooting attacks. Hernandez, a TSA employee, was shot and killed at Los Angeles International Airport during a November 2013 incident.

The second bill (H.R. 719) will require TSA criminal investigators to spend at least 50 percent of their time investigating, apprehending or detaining people suspected of committing a crime.

Currently, TSA investigators do not have to meet a 50 percent requirement, even though they receive higher compensation than their peers at the agency, because they are considered law enforcement officers.

H.R. 719 is sponsored by Rep. John Katko (RNY and chairman of the House Homeland Security subcommittee on transportation security), citing the LAX incident as an example of why airports need to be prepared. He said everyone within the airport community from law enforcement and emergency medical personnel, including airport and airline staff, must know how to respond to an active shooter or any other threat inside airport property.

The plans would include strategies for evacuating people within the airport’s perimeter, how to coordinate with law enforcement and firefighters, and a schedule for testing and training airport workers to use emergency communication equipment.

“The threats to our nation’s airports are ceaseless and constantly evolving,” said Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY). “There could be another attack on any given day at any given airport. We must assume that it will happen. We must be prepared. We must do better.”

In a press release from Katko, he said the subcommittee discussion “stemmed from security breaches in which loaded firearms were brought onto commercial airplanes by employees with airport access privileges.”

“In light of that hearing, these bills provide a thoughtful response to create safer airports across our country by improving upon nationwide security protocols and facilitating commonsense TSA reform to save taxpayer dollars,” said Katko.

Speaking of TSA finances, a summary of monies spent for this budget year includes $5.2 million to the Federal Air Marshal Service, which effectively lifts a hiring freeze from several years ago. In order to remediate known vulnerabilities, $2.9 million will be spent for high-risk TSA systems, which is intended to strengthen network security across the department by fiscal 2017. Because TSA is part of the Department of Homeland Security, $2.8 million has been earmarked to support the DHS Watchlist Service. This service provides a gateway of data from the Terrorist Screening Center to the department.

Airport security is a must have these days. Airport security is everyone’s responsibility from airport executives to the janitor. I believe people flying should be aware of their surroundings and vigilant to activity around them. Not to be paranoid, but safety and security is everyone’s business.

More has to be done.

Serial stowaway Marilyn Jena Hartmen has been caught again, traveling for free. She is known for repeatedly getting on flights in California and Arizona without a ticket. What is more disturbing is she is getting by TSA screening, without a ticket. She is getting on board a plane, without a ticket.

Hartman’s latest travel schedule begins in Minnesota, ending in Jacksonville, Fla. She traveled without a plane ticket, and went to the Omni Amelia Island Plantation. She has been charged with fraud and impersonation, defrauding an innkeeper, and trespassing. She now has a complimentary room at the Nassau County Jail.

Hartman was only discovered when the person actually renting the room checked into the resort. She has pleaded no contest to the charges at LAX, and said outside the courtroom, “I don’t think it’s wise to say how I got through. I don’t want to help the enemy.”

TSA has issues to address, and maybe with this vote of confidence from members of the House, it will put things back into perspective. Travelers need to have the proper credentials, and a plane ticket, to get past airport security.

This article originally appeared in the March 2015 issue of Security Today.

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