Lambert Security Specialists on lookout for fake documents

Boarding passes and ID cards are getting a closer look at Lambert Field and other U.S. airports.

The Transportation Security Administration this month deployed specially trained officers to greet travelers as they enter the security queues at Lambert checkpoints and, more importantly, to take a good, hard look at their travel documents.

By the end of month, transportation security officers at Lambert will also be outfitted with black lights and magnifying loops to help identify fakes.

The uniformed officers replace airline-contracted employees who previously reviewed the documents. The switch was made Oct. 1, said Bill Switzer, the federal security director at Lambert.

"Every opportunity that TSA can take to move beyond the checkpoint and engage with the public improves and expands our layered security approach," said Carrie Harmon, a TSA spokeswoman.

Earlier this year, Congress authorized the agency to formally take over the document review. The 9/11 Commission found that travel documents "are akin to weapons for terrorists," TSA Administrator Kip Hawley said Tuesday in prepared testimony to the House Subcommittee on Transportation Security and Infrastructure Protection.

"We will make it harder for dangerous people to use fraudulent documents and IDs by raising the standard of inspection and providing additional equipment for our (transportation security officers) to perform this function," Hawley testified.

Transportation security officers already were checking identification cards and boarding passes at John F. Kennedy, Baltimore-Washington and Phoenix Sky Harbor airports, as well as 200 smaller airports.

The positions were funded through TSA savings at some airports, but Congress funded 1,300 additional transportation security officers to help with the program, TSA officials said.

Harmon said the security agency will continue to roll out the change at other airports this fall. The move, she said, is not a knock against the private firms who used to perform the document reviews.

"Since TSA performs security, it made sense to perform this function as well," Harmon said.

Officers are being trained in spotting fake documents and watching for suspicious behavior.

The extra attention to each boarding pass and ID card "has not increased wait times noticeably in St. Louis," Harmon added.

At Lambert, airline passenger Dave Petroske of Charlotte, N.C., a frequent flier, said Tuesday that he noticed uniformed officers carefully scrutinizing the IDs and boarding passes of travelers ahead of him in the security line.

While the line seemed to move a little slower, he didn't mind.

"They're actually looking at it," Petroske said. "Sometimes you have people who aren't really paying attention."