Little Oversight of Employee Check-ins at JFK Airport, Raising Security Concerns - NBC New York
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Little Oversight of Employee Check-ins at JFK Airport, Raising Security Concerns

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    Airport employees are getting in without going through metal detectors or having their IDs verified. Pei-Sze Cheng reports. (Published Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2015)

    By now, air travelers have become conditioned to the lengthy screening process before boarding planes, but at many airports across the country, including at JFK, employees just swipe their ID cards and walk in, with no verification process to match the person swiping the card to their ID.

    In cellphone video taken last January of an employee entrance at the airport, people are seen walking in unverified, with no metal detectors and no one checking their IDs or their bags.

    The fear is that someone can use a stolen badge to access secure areas of the airport. Recently, an NBC investigation in Dallas revealed more than 1,400 airport security badges were lost or stolen from one Atlanta airport.

    "What we're asking for a common sense approach here to public safety and security at our airports," said Marshall McClain, president of Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association and co-founder of American Alliance of Airport Police Officers. 

    The Port Authority police union, along with their counterparts in Los Angeles, urged the TSA to screen all airport workers three years ago because of the potential for an insider attack, like if a worker with access to the airport becomes radicalized by terror organizations.

    "I would tell you that I think that the threat from an insider is probably a more significant threat right now that we face, particularly an insider with a capability to put in an explosive device on the aircraft," former Homeland Security official John Halinski told NBC News' Tom Costello.

    Department of Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson addressed airport employee screenings Wednesday: "We're evaluating whether more is necessary right now. That is something that I and TSA have been focused on as recently on as today." 

    Still, even on Thanksgiving Eve, one of the biggest travel days of the year, there was no one at the employee gate at JFK checking bags or verifying the identities of the people who were passing through.

    Traveler Bob Greenberg of Hampton Bays said he hopes "once they see this video, they will react."

    "Frankly if someone wants to do harm, it will be difficult to stop them," he said.

    The Port Authority said it is up to the airline or the terminal managers to monitor the employee turnstiles. Terminal managers have not returned calls for comment.

    The TSA said it conducts random bag checks and searches.

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