Airport Security

PROBLEMS IN AIRPORT SECURITYThe crash of TWA Flight 800 combined with increased terrorism in airportshad led to more rigid security measures. Anyone who has flown recently hasdiscovered that at most airports when you want to get your boarding pass,you must show a picture identification. This same procedure is followed whenchecking your baggage outside the terminal building.

Considering the bombing of the World Towers, the Federal Building inOklahoma City, and the bomb found in Atlanta Americans need to take securityfor all public places more seriously. This is especially true at airportswhere the security measures taken in other countries, such as Britain andIsrael, are far more rigid and effective. Given the alarmingly increasednumbers of terrorist attacks in the world, it is only prudent to instituteand comply with rigid security standards at all airports no matter wherethey are located. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

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Most of the security devices being used in airports today are the same asthose used in the 1970s when the major concern was hijackings, not terroristbombings. These machines can detect metal but they cannot detect thesophisticated explosive materials used in today’s world. Even morefrightening is the fact that most of the luggage and mail checked fordomestic flights is not even X-rayed (Fischetti 38).Flagrant violations at many airports even in the United States have beendiscovered during “spot-checks” of security measures. This paper willdiscuss some of the problems found, the major problem areas, why terroristschoose their targets and the various technological devices that coulddramatically improve security at all airports.The airline that has the best reputation for security is El Al, the Israelinational airline.

Isaac Yeffet who was director of security for El Al forsix years was a member of a team that conducted a review of major airportsin the world in the late 1980s. The team found flagrant abuses andviolations of basic security measures in nearly every airport they visitedincluding the loading of uninspected baggage that had not even been x-rayed(Barnes 135). The report was so well known, it is amazing that some of thesame violations found more than a decade ago still exist today.Why Terrorists Select Specific LocationsTerrorist acts are typically a response to a specific political or militaryact (Barnes 132). In recent years, terrorists have attacked on theanniversaries of the death of a leader who supported their cause (Searle,et.

al. 2). They look for the weakest spots that will also create the mostfear (Barnes 132). Airports and airplanes are a prime target due to thelarge numbers of people who are placed in jeopardy by their threats or thelarge numbers who will dies as a result of a bombing.

Airports, in manycases, are easy targets for a variety of reasons: they are oftenunderstaffed; security personnel do not receive adequate and ongoingtraining; machines used to detect possible materials are out of date;security measures that are in place are not followed (Searle, 2). Itis surprisingly easy to gain access to restricted areas in many airports inthe world, including areas that lead directly to the tarmac where planes areparked.Security ProblemsAirports where significant problems with security can be found are notlimited to countries where internal strife has been present for years norare they limited to Asian or Arabian countries although the incidence is fargreater in these countries.

For instance, there are periodic hijackings andbomb threats on the route between Beijing and Taiwan, China; the securitymeasures and adherence to them vacillates between good and poor. But othercountries do not implement appropriate security measures at all; Athens,Greece is one of those (Strecker 161).Dulles International Airport is a major hub in the world. Dignitaries fromall over the world fly in and out of this airport located only 25 miles fromdowntown Washington, D.C. In November 1997, a spot check of Dulles revealedseveral problems were observed:In the baggage claim area a door marked “”WARNING, No Trespassing,Restricted Area” was left open for more than an hour with not securityguard present. These kinds of restricted areas are adjacent to the tarmacwhere planes are packed and baggage containers are loaded into the planes.

Anyone could have walked through and planted an exploding device.When the screening one person’s carry-on bag indicated a hand search shouldbe conducted, the person at the security check point began to unzip the bagbut when the person asked why the hand search was being conducted, thescreener quickly rezipped the bag and let the person move on withoutexamining the contents of the bag._The reporter doing the study passed through the carry-on baggagecheckpoints five times without holding a ticket or being asked for histicket. The FAA leaves this option up to the individual airlines andairports but Denver, San Francisco and New York do not allow unticketedpersons beyond the security points.AT one of the airline ticket counters that was being renovated, an area thatleads directly to the departure gate was left unguarded. A cordon ofconstruction tape was the only barrier to the area (Stoller 12).Another reporter recently successfully walked past security guards atNewark’s airport. Newark Airport is a hub for New York City and it is the13th busiest airport in the United States.

The reporter was able to entervarious baggage areas through unlocked doors and the only guard he saw wasasleep. He was able to walk onto the tarmac and right to a parked plane. Hewas never stopped or asked what he was doing there (Fay 1).

Another flagrant violation observed concerned another passenger. Thesecurity machine went off when he passed through it; he took off his jacket,handed it to the security officer and then walked through without the bellsgoing off. The security officer then handed the passenger his jacket withouthaving the pockets emptied for investigation (Fay 2).The reporter also observed luggage that was scheduled for differentinternational flights neither X-rayed nor hand-searched by any airportpersonnel. In fact, he found the machines were there in the baggage roomsbut they were just not being used (Fay 1).Checking checked baggage in the United States is not taken very seriously.

IN an investigation, Lane discovered that the federal government has spentmore than $200 million in developing technology to detect bombs since thelate 1970s but it has not implemented baggage screening machines that arecapable of detecting plastic-explosive bombs like the one that took down PanAm Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland eight years ago (6). More alarming isthe fact that baggage checked in the U.S.

on domestic flights is seldomscreened at all (Fishetti 38; Lane 6) and on international flights, manyairlines use only conventional X-ray machines which are incapable ofdetecting small amounts of plastic explosives (6).The most serious problem airports face is connecting luggage to passengers.The most glaring lack in airport security in the United States is screeningluggage. There are machines, however, that can do both but they are costly.Security Devices AvailableThere are numerous hi-tech security devices available. For instance, STI hasdeveloped an integrated security and safety system they call FotoTag. Thesystem allows operations and security personnel to track the movements ofvisitors, passengers, employees, vendors and baggage from check-in toboarding and more.

The system requires a LAN in order to work. FotoTag usesthe latest technology to integrate digital images and bar codes. Passengersare digitally photographed when they check in and is given a security statuswhile their bags and boarding passes are being assigned with correspondingbar codes. The passenger and his or her bags can then be verified at anysecurity station at the airport. The same system is used to verify any otherbaggage, cargo and even employees (STI 3).The best X-ray machine available for screening bags is the CTX-5000 which isa computer-tomography machine. It takes cross-sectional slices and combinesthem into three-dimensional images. The process is fairly slow because twomachines have to operate in parallel fashion to scan the bags thus thescreeners are able to process only about 450 bags an hour.

The cost is $1million per machine. O’Hare airport in Chicago has two of the 50 machinesthat are currently in use (Fischetti 43).Although some companies are in the process of developing similar machinesthat will cost about half that price, they are still very expensive and thisis the dilemma. Who is going to pay the price?ConclusionAirport security is a major concern across the world. Some airports aresafer than others, of course, but it would seem that here in the UnitedStates several areas are not attended to as carefully as they should be.Baggage screening is one of those areas. The technology exists but it iscostly and one question that is often asked is: is it worth it to spend thatamount of money. Perhaps, the officials asking this question should pose itto the survivors of victims.

There can be no doubt about their answer –yes, it is worth it.Works CitedBarnes, Edward. “The Next Bomb: ‘No Airport In The U.S.

Is Safe'” LIFE,(1989): March 1, pp. 132 – 138.Fay, Jim. “Terrorism.

” Computer Sentry, URL:, Mark. “Defusing Airline Terrorism.

” Technology Review, Vol. 100,pp. 38 – 47.Lane, Earl “Drive For Perfect Security Device Blocks Other Avenues.”Newsday, (1996): December 19, pp. 6 – 8.Searle, Clay, Kempshall, Dick and Hughes, Jim.

“Profile System.” PLESProfessional Law Enforcement, (1997): URL: “Breezecom Chosen For Revolutionary Airport Security System.” SoftwareTechnology Profile, (1996): November, pp. 1 – 3.

Stoller, Gary. “Security Gets Better; Still Has Flaws.” USA Today (1997):November 18, p.

12.Strecker, Erica, “Cross-Strait Air Piracy: Its Impact On ROC-PRC Relations.”(1994): An American Review, (1994): Vol. 21, pp.

148 – 171.reening luggage. There are machines, however, that can do both but they arecostly.Words/ Pages : 1,537 / 24