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New Screening for Airline, Airport Staff to Be Implemented

Changes will have little impact on the average traveler but should make airports safer according to the head of homeland security

The Transportation Security Administration is tightening security rules for airline and airport workers in the wake of a criminal case in which an Atlanta baggage handler was accused of smuggling guns on commercial jets, Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said Monday.

In the immediate aftermath of the December arrest, Johnson ordered a 90-day review of security measures and now the agency is closing some security gaps the review highlighted.

Among the changes announced Monday are new rules requiring real-time, recurring criminal background checks for aviation workers, including airline employees. Fingerprint-based background checks will also now be conducted every two years for airport employees who hold Secure Identification Display Area badges.

Johnson said airport and airline workers traveling as passengers will also have to go through TSA screening before boarding a flight. The number of access points to secure areas will be reduced to an "operational minimum," he said.

San Diego's Lindbergh Field will be among the airports implementing the new security measures.

Passenger Irene Parco supported the new measures.

“They hold everybody’s lives in their hands every time they take off and land,” Parco said. “I’d like to see a little bit more scrutiny on some of the folks who are responsible for so many lives.”

Jon Graves, a spokesperson for San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, issued this statement late Monday:

"While we cannot comment on TSA policies, the safety of our customers is a top priority, and we will continue to work with our TSA partners to ensure that San Diego International Airport remains a safe and secure facility for travel."

The security review and subsequent changes were made in the aftermath of a gun smuggling case involving an Atlanta-based baggage handler who was accused of helping smuggle weapons from Atlanta to New York on passenger jets.

Johnson said the security changes will greatly reduce "the potential insider threat" posed by aviation employees.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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