I Guess I Missed the Memo

Feb. 10, 2016

As aviation security has evolved in the nearly 15 years since 9/11, the industry and most major governments have battled a vast panoply of threats from international terrorism and ISIS-inspired bombings to the insider threat from your own radicalized people; from cyber-security and drones to missiles in conflict zones and just plain old criminal activity and theft. One would think the major U.S. government security agencies would be using the most advanced technologies to gather every ounce of threat-related data in their task to protect the American public from such doomsday scenarios.

Apparently, one would be wrong.

Here’s a verbatim a headline from this week’s news reports: “TSA Will Finally Be Given Access To Counterterrorism Database To Screen Airport Workers,” specifically the National Counterterrorism Center’s Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE) system. Yes, that’s the one that knows who a lot of the bad guys are, but until now, wouldn’t provide the information to TSA (listed on their web site as a “key partner”) and the one who screens airport workers for ties to terrorism, such as the recent case that found that 73 aviation workers approved to work in secure areas at airports across the U.S. were actually on terrorist watch list.

Yeah, that list.

This was brought to light by DHS in recent Congressional testimony and the NCTC policy change was met with politically correct homilies of “long-overdue step” and a “welcome change,” but one wonders at the absence of outrage at denying another agency the information necessary to do its job.

It has long been known that the TSA vetting process has other gaps when it comes to verifying workers’ criminal histories and immigration status. That occurs at the airport level, with hundreds of local variations on background checks and verifications, largely done manually, so that TSA’s oversight and inspection process is spread very thin. Further, after people are initially vetted, the system relies on individuals to then self-report themselves to the airport if they are convicted of any disqualifying crimes, thus, in effect, automatically getting themselves fired.

What’s wrong with that picture?