“Back Door” Security A Concern At Airports
The foiled plot to blow up fuel tanks at JFK International Airport has highlighted the vulnerability of the U.S. aviation system’s infrastructure, including “back door” risks.
Authorities say that the plot was broken up long before it was operational and insist that the fuel tanks at JFK are secure. However, aviation security experts say such infrastructure represents a vulnerable “back door” to the nation’s airports.
“The back door to airports has always been an issue,” John Raidt, an aviation security specialist for the 9/11 Commission, told United Press International. “You have trucks coming and going … you have aviation fuel.”
The foiled plot highlighted a need the commission identified to build security in at all levels of airport planning and construction.
The Transportation Security Administration oversees perimeter and infrastructure security at airports. But the work of protecting them day-to-day rests with airport operators, and a government audit last year found enforcement efforts were patchy.
Even though the TSA recently announced a much-needed plan to screen airport workers and vendors, the security threat lingers because most still go unchecked, according to UPI.
The plan supposedly began last fall at larger airports and has been fully implemented at most of the nation’s 450 commercial facilities. According to TSA officials, the security measures have been expanded to include even aircraft service vehicles, construction workers and anyone authorized to drive in secure airport areas.
Security officers are deployed throughout airports to inspect workers, their property and vehicles and to ensure they don’t have items that may pose a security threat. The reality is, however, that vendor trucks carrying airplane meals, water, construction equipment, newspapers and other supplies are routinely admitted to airports with little or no screening.
This kind of “back door” vulnerability is what some say put JFK at risk for an attack. But some say otherwise. Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey that runs JFK, says are were happy with their security. “These tanks are 300 feet away from an internal airport road. They are surrounded by heavy-duty fencing and barbed wire, and are patrolled 24 hours a day,” he told UPI. “Our security is good.”
The Airline Pilots Security Alliance, created after the Sept. 11 attacks, has documented the dismal security at airports around the country by publishing reports such as “Immediate Action Needed to Improve Aviation Security,” and “Airport Perimeter Security is Weak.” Thousands of active and retired airline pilots operate the group that strives to improve aviation security and deter terrorism.
Besides revealing the TSA’s latest flawed security plan, the group has exposed how vulnerable the nation’s smaller airports are to terrorist infiltration because they are the least secure, often protected by fence only six feet high with no barbed wire on top.