Last week’s killing of a Transportation Security Administration officer in Los Angeles, after other airport shootings, shows there are safety gaps the agency must resolve, its deputy administrator said.
“There are folks out there that want to do bad things,” John Halinski said at an aviation-security conference in Arlington, Va., Tuesday. “The problem is that front side of the airport is not as strong as it could be. So we have to look at ways to prevent that.”
The agency will meet with aviation-industry stakeholders next week to evaluate how to improve security beyond screening checkpoints, he said.
Among options the agency will consider is expanding use of its Visible Intermodal Protection and Response, or VIPR, teams that conduct random searches at subway stations, bus terminals, and sporting events in cooperation with local law enforcement.
Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J., has introduced legislation to ban those searches outside airports, calling them “security theater.”
“We have to look at things in a different way — a large partnership with our law enforcement folks, with our airports and a partnership with federal, state, and local [authorities],” Halinski said in an interview. “That’s the way to look at it.
‘‘I don’t want to put any kind of political bent on this at all because it was a security issue,” he said. “We need to analyze it and need to do a better job of correcting it.”
As the TSA and other policymakers evaluate responses to the Los Angeles shooting, which targeted agency screeners, they’re running up against limits on how much more can be done without adding hours of waiting time for travelers.
The accused Nov. 1 shooter, Paul Ciancia, 23, left a note in which he wrote of wanting to kill TSA agents, the FBI said yesterday.
“This particular individual was deeply disturbed,” Halinski said. “There’s no way you can try to analyze deeply disturbed people.”
Officer Gerardo Hernandez, 39, was killed in the shooting, becoming the first TSA employee killed in the line of duty.
TSA Administrator John Pistole said Nov. 2 the agency is discussing airport security issues “writ large” with Congress, including whether its officers should be armed.
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