Random Employee Screenings Now Begin at Denver

The federal government is stepping up security at Denver International Airport, implementing random employee screening and adding jobs focused on identifying explosives and suspicious behavior.

The measures come as the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, which oversees airport screening, makes similar moves nationwide.

The TSA said the new steps will make aviation safer and help discourage terrorists without affecting average security wait times for passengers.

In Denver, the agency recently began random checks of DIA employees moving from restricted parts of the airport - such as the tarmac - to secure areas on the other side of the main security checkpoints.

DIA's 30,000 workers have to clear extensive background checks and threat assessments before they're hired, and they must scan their badges to access different areas of the airport. But they aren't subject on a daily basis to the same rigid process used to screen passengers.

Under the new program, a group of handpicked TSA workers conducts searches of employees at unannounced entry points - at undisclosed times - around the airport. Employees must remove metal objects, jackets and hats and are subject to a pat-down and screening with a handheld wand.

The checks, which the TSA implemented at more than 100 U.S. airports, are tailored for every type of employee, including mechanics, pilots, gate agents and customer service workers.

"It doesn't take too long for employees to go through the process, but it adds another important layer of security," said Bill Allen, acting federal security director at DIA.

The TSA also plans to add two types of specialized workers in Denver: highly trained bomb-appraisal officers and behavioral specialists.

The behavioral specialists "really focus on looking for things that determine if a person is under an unusual amount of stress that would cause us to become concerned," Allen said.

Current TSA and federal security workers will be trained for the behavioral jobs, although Allen wouldn't disclose how many new positions will come to DIA.

Although some security experts question the effectiveness of the new procedures, others welcome them.

"The more of these mitigation procedures you put in place, the less likely you are to have an attack," said Howard Safir, former New York police commissioner and an executive with GlobalOptions Group, a risk-management firm. "There's not a 100 percent fail-safe method. But the more procedures and technology you use, the bigger the deterrent."

INFOBOX

Anti-terror strategies being implemented

The TSA is implementing new security procedures and installing new equipment at DIA. Beefed-up security measures either recently added or on the horizon include:

* Random screening of airport employees moving from restricted to secure areas of the airport.

* Bomb-appraisal officers - all trained at one of only two specialized schools in the United States - to help detect explosives.

* Behavioral screening officers - trained in observation techniques - to identify suspicious passengers.

* Equipment that automatically scans ski and golf club bags for explosives. Currently, those bags are searched by hand.

Source: Tsa



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