TSA Fails to Identify 73 Employees with Terrorism Links

 Airplane

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

A report from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) – ‘TSA Can Improve Aviation Worker Vetting’ – found that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) “did not identify 73 individuals with terrorism related category codes because TSA is not authorized to receive all terrorism-related information under current interagency watchlisting policy.” The report is available at https://www.oig.dhs.gov/assets/Mgmt/2015/OIG_15-98_Jun15.pdf.

According to the report, the TSA had less effective controls in place for ensuring that aviation workers had not committed crimes that would disqualify them from having unescorted access to secure airport areas and had lawful status authorizing them to work in the United States. The TSA relied on airport operators to perform criminal history and work authorization checks but had limited oversight. As a result, the report stated the “TSA lacked assurance that it had properly vetted all credential applicants.”

The report also found that “thousands of records used for vetting workers contained potentially incomplete or inaccurate data” and did not have edit checks to reject those records from vetting. “Without complete and accurate information,” the report stated, “TSA risks credentialing and providing unescorted success to secure airport areas for workers with potential to harm the nation’s air transportation system.”

The report made the following six recommendations on which the TSA concurred:

  • Follow up on TSA’s request to determine if its credential vetting program warrants the receipt of additional categories of terrorism related records.
  • Issue guidance requiring that TSA’s annual security inspection process include verification of original documentation supporting airport adjudication of an applicant’s criminal history and work authorization.
  • Pilot Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Rap Back program and take steps to institute recurrent vetting of criminal histories at all commercial airports.
  • Require airports to put an end date to credentials of individuals allowed to work in the United States temporarily.
  • Analyze TSA’s denials of credentials due to lawful status issues to identify airports with specific weaknesses with airport badging officials as necessary.
  • Implement all necessary data quality checks necessary to ensure that all credential application data elements required TSA Security Directive 1542-04-08G are complete and accurate.

The DHS OIG conducted this review to identify enhancements to the TSA’s vetting of workers with access to secure areas of commercial airports for links to terrorism, criminal history, and lawful status. The report also assessed the accuracy and reliability of data TSA uses for vetting. For more information, contact the DHS OIG Office of Public Affairs at 202.254.4100 or email DHS-OIG.OfficePublicAffairs@dhs.gov.

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