Four years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks and just days before the busy holiday travel season, Logan International Airport is down more than 100 baggage screeners, prompting concerned calls for answers from Massachusetts lawmakers in Washington.
While federal transportation officials have told Congress that Logan needs 856 full-time screeners, there are currently just 740 on the job. The lower-than-recommended levels led Sens. Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry and the Bay State's nine representatives to fire off a letter to Homeland Security czar Michael Chertoff demanding answers.
``If there's fewer than you need, it either results in less security or much greater delays. But either way, it's unacceptable,'' said U.S. Rep. Edward Markey (D-Malden), a senior member of Congress' Homeland Security Committee.
Markey blasted federal officials for not ensuring that Logan is up to the recommended staffing levels, especially since two of the hijacked airliners that slammed into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, came out of Boston.
``It's all part of this pattern where the Bush administration has been nickel-and-diming Homeland Security and writing a blank check for the war in Iraq,'' Markey said. ``We in Boston really know the consequences. The terrorists were here.''
Of the low staffing levels, Massport spokeswoman Danny Levy said: ``Security continues to be the utmost priority at Logan Airport, and we expect to receive the appropriate number of screener positions to maintain a safe and secure airport for our traveling public.''
George Naccara, federal security director at Logan Airport, discounted the notion that the screening workforce is being stretched beyond its capacity, saying the airport has enough workers to keep passengers safe.
``I would like more people, but at the same time I have to be a steward of taxpayers' dollars,'' Naccara said, adding that the number of screeners at Logan changes on a daily basis. ``I should only have what I need to perform.''
Naccara called the staffing ``adequate'' but said the numbers could fall even lower. Congress' new cap of 43,000 screeners nationwide is expected to cause staff reductions at larger airports like Logan.
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