Aviation Security:

Vulnerabilities in, and Alternatives for, Preboard Screening Security Operations

GAO-01-1171T: Published: Sep 25, 2001. Publicly Released: Sep 25, 2001.

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Gerald Dillingham, Ph.D.
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A safe and secure civil aviation system is critical to the nation's overall security, physical infrastructure, and economy. Billions of dollars and countless programs and policies have gone into developing such a system. Although many of the specific factors contributing to the terrible events of September 11 are still unclear, it is apparent that our aviation security system is plagued by serious weaknesses that can have devastating consequences. Last year, as part of an undercover investigation, GAO special agents used fake law enforcement badges and credentials to gain access to secure areas at two airports. They were also issued tickets and boarding passes, and could have carried weapons, explosives, or other dangerous items onto the aircraft. GAO tests of airport screeners also found major shortcomings in their ability to detect dangerous items hidden on passengers or in carry-on luggage. These weaknesses have raised questions about the need for alternative approaches. In assessing alternatives, five outcomes should be considered: improving screener performance, establishing accountability, ensuring cooperation among stakeholders, moving people efficiently, and minimizing legal and liability issues.

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