Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Sen. Shumer calls for screening of airline, airport workers

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Senator Chuck Schumer is calling for daily federal screening of airport and airline workers.

Currently, the Transportation Security Administration only requires pilots and flight crews to go through metal detectors. All other workers are only subject to background checks and regular security threat assessments.

“Why we would screen a pilot or a flight attendant but not somebody who loads baggage onto the plane or cleans the plane is beyond me,” Sen. Schumer said.

This comes after five men, including an airline baggage handler, were arrested in December 2014 for allegedly smuggling more than 150 guns through New York and Atlanta airports since May.

“Carrying guns and other contraband onto airplanes should not be a walk in the park,” the senator said. “Gun runners, drug smugglers, even would-be terrorists can use this giant loophole, god forbid. And we have to close it as soon as we can.”

The office of Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson conducted the seven month-long investigation. He said the lack of physical security checks to airport and airline employees allowed defendants Mark Henry and Eugene Harvey to run the gun running ring on nearly 20 commercial flights undetected.

“We can sit here and stand here now and tell you how many guns, but we think one gun on the plane is too many let alone 150,” Thompson said.

Thompson and the senator believe the TSA should immediately require all U.S. airports to screen its entire staff.

“Something is wrong with just doing background checks if this could happen and happen repeatedly,” Schumer said.

Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy agrees with Schumer’s proposal and said it’s unfortunate the people who are supposed to protect U.S. air travelers had a large lapse in security.

“I don’t think it would add too many delays and certain there’s no baggage, no pun intended,” she said. “If they’re workers, they are there for the day and can quickly walk through their own security.”

Schumer told the Associated Press that “the basic response from TSA is that screening would be too complex to do, because many employees go back and forth between secure and unsecure locations.”

Albany International Airport released the following statement about Sen. Schumer’s proposal:

“We look forward to working with Senator Schumer, our airlines, the TSA and law enforcement agencies to further assess our current security practices and to meet any new challenges that we may face.”

TSA did not return any calls for comment. Schumer said he doesn’t think the extra screening will be expensive and the added assurance will be worth it.

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