TSA Considers an End to Screening at Small Airports

TSA security could possibly become a thing of the past as the Transportation Security Administration has begun to consider the elimination of passenger screening at more than 150 airports across the United States.

The proposal is focused on airports with a smaller population but would signal a major change for air travel among the U.S. if implemented. United States airports have experienced nearly two decades of TSA presence since the terrorist attack on September 11th, 2001.

On September 11th, 2001 two attackers flew from an airport in Portland to Boston before boarding American Airlines flight 11. The attackers forced entry to the cockpit and began steering the plane into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. The attackers originally thought of this certain airport as a smaller, less secure airport due to its small size. The Transportation Security Administration came into existence after this tragedy on November 19, 2001. Now almost two decades later, a group has come up with a proposal to take away TSA screenings in small airports.

The goal of this proposal is to cut passenger screening at airports where the aircraft will only seat 60 or fewer passengers. Internal documents from June and July of this year show the proposal could save $115 million annually. If the proposal is successful, the money being saved could be used to enhance security amongst US larger airports.

As part of the proposal, flight passengers, and their luggage, that arrive from these unscreened airports would be screened when they arrive at the larger, more populated airports if they have connecting flights, instead of immediately joining the already screened passengers.

Terrorism analyst, Paul Cruickshank said it is, “stunning that this is even seriously being considered, Al Qaeda and ISIS still regard aviation as a priority target — that includes aircraft where you have fewer than 60 people on board.” He says, “They would see that as a way to hit the headlines. They would see that as a way to inflict severe economic damage on the United States. If you have an aircraft of 50 or so people being blown out of the sky there is going to be a great amount of panic and there will indeed be significant economic reverberations, and of course significant loss of life.”

According to the TSA website, TSA currently does passenger screenings at 440 airports. Two TSA officials have expressed serious national security concerns and another TSA field leader talked about how potentially dangerous this proposal can be.

The group working on the proposal concludes that the policy change would affect about 10,000 passengers who would be screened by 1,299 TSA employees, which only accounts for 0.5% of passengers who fly out of U.S. airports daily.

Though specific airports that the plan would like to remove TSA from have not been named, it is noted that this is not the first time this type of proposal has been discussed. A TSA spokesman, Michael Bilello, wrote in an email to CNN: “This is not a new issue, the regulations which established TSA does not require screening below a certain level, so every year is ‘the year’ that TSA will reconsider screening.”

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