TSA Didn't Catch 73 Airport Workers on Terror Watchlist
DHS: Problem is TSA isn't allowed to receive every bit of terrorism-related data
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 8, 2015 11:19 AM CDT
In this Nov. 21, 2014, file photo, a TSA agent checks a bag at a security checkpoint area at Midway International Airport in Chicago.    (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

(Newser) – The good news from the Department of Homeland's Security new report on the TSA's "multi-layered process to vet aviation workers for potential links to terrorism": That process is "generally effective." The bad news: There were still 73 individuals who should never have gotten jobs with airlines because they were tagged with terrorism-related category codes. The main problem, the report notes, is that, under current interagency watchlist policy, the TSA isn't allowed to receive every bit of terrorism-related data, meaning airlines often have to fend for themselves in determining whether a job applicant is properly vetted, including whether an applicant is lawfully allowed to work in the US and if the applicant has committed any crimes that would disqualify him from gaining unsupervised access to secure airport areas. The TSA and airports aren't permitted to conduct "recurrent criminal history vetting," meaning the applicant would have to self-report, the DHS report notes.

How the DHS conducted its analysis: The agency asked the National Counterterrorism Center to cross-reference more than 900,000 records of current aviation workers against the NCTC's terror watchlist. The list's terrorism codes associated with the 73 individuals in question were not shared with the TSA during the vetting process due to current interagency rules that prohibit such sharing, the report finds. It also notes that "thousands of records" pored over during the vetting process contained incomplete info; sometimes applications would only include an initial for a candidate's first name or would be missing a Social Security number. The workers who slipped through "were employed by major airlines, airport vendors, and other employers," the report adds, and were cleared for access to secure areas, "despite representing a potential transportation security threat."