The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has suspended a program allowing agency safety inspectors to skip security screening after one of its inspectors reportedly bypassed security and flew from Atlanta to New York with a gun in his carry-on baggage, Homeland Security Today (HST) said.
Officials said the FAA employee used a Security Identification Display Area (SIDA) badge to avoid Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening and gain access to a secure area of Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the report said.
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The safety inspector did not have SIDA privileges at New York’s LaGuardia Airport, where the firearm was allegedly found in his carry-on baggage during standard TSA screening, according to the report.
“The FAA will stand down the program while it conducts improved training for all of its inspectors, ” the FAA said in a statement. “The agency also will require inspectors to sign a new agreement that details each inspector’s responsibility under the program and clearly states that any infraction related to a weapon will result in an immediate and permanent suspension of privileges and possible further disciplinary action”, the report said.
The arrest of the FAA employee occurred just weeks after Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) called for tighter security screening for all US airport workers, HST said.
Sen. Schumer made the announcement in response to the arrest of a Delta Airlines worker for involvement in a plot to smuggle 153 guns onto a flight from Atlanta to New York City, the report said.
“When guns, drugs and even explosives are as easy to carry on board a plane as a neck pillow, then we have to seriously — and immediately — overhaul our airport practices, ” Schumer said at a press conference in Washington, DC, according to the report.
According to the FBI, on at least five occasions in 2014, Eugene Harvey, a baggage handler at Hartsfield-Atlanta airport, worked with another former Delta employee to smuggle firearms through airport-controlled security checkpoints for Delta employees. Harvey was not required to go through the screening performed for passengers by TSA, HST said.