The Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) PreCheck program is supposed to be limited to verified airplane passengers who are not documented terrorists and who have no serious criminal background.
But those standards fell by the wayside when Sara Jane Olson, a 68-year-old ex-member of the violent, left-wing Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) was somehow approved for PreCheck privileges and allowed to board an airplane last year.
TSA’s inspector general reported last week that on June 29, a “notorious convicted felon” who was a former member of a “domestic terrorist organization” was allowed through PreCheck.
PreCheck lets fliers pass through security more quickly by avoiding taking off their shoes and pulling liquids out of their bags. But PreCheck privileges are only supposed to be granted to applicants with clean criminal records who pass through what is supposed to be a heightened screening process.
According to the inspector general, a TSA agent recognized the terrorist Olson, who was unnamed in the report, from the media. The agent alerted a superior officer but was told to “take no further action and allow the traveler through the TSA Pre Check lane.”
The incident only came to light after a whistle-blower informed the TSA of the violation.
The inspector general did not release the name of the airport where the incident occurred, but Minneapolis-St. Paul’s KMSP identified the airport as Minneapolis-St. Paul International and the passenger as Olson.
According to KMSP, Olson did not receive PreCheck approval through the normal application process. Had she done so, her criminal conviction would have disqualified her. Instead, she was approved through PreCheck’s Secure Flight program which vets applicants by checking the Terrorist Screening Database and the “No Fly” list. Those lists apparently did not flag Olson.
Known then as Kathleen Ann Soliah, Olson went on the run in 1976 after being indicted for planting a bomb under a Los Angeles Police Department squad car the year before.
Olson had joined the SLA whose members murdered several people, including Oakland school superintendent Marcus Foster in November 1973.
The radical Communist group also kidnapped Patty Hearst, the heiress to the Hearst publishing fortune, in early 1974. Hearst claimed to have been brainwashed by SLA members and took part in some of their crimes.
After more than two decades in hiding, Olson was arrested in St. Paul in 1999. In 2001, she pleaded guilty to possessing explosives with intent to murder. Two years later she pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. She was sentenced to 14 years in prison but was released on parole in 2009.
The second-degree murder charge stemmed from the April 1975 robbery of Crocker National Bank outside of Sacramento. During that robbery, Myrna Opsahl, a mother of four, was killed. Patty Hearst, who was a getaway driver during the robbery, wrote in a memoir and later testified that Olson kicked a pregnant teller in the stomach during that robbery, causing her to miscarry.
Months later, in Aug. 1975, Olson planted a bomb under an LAPD cruiser parked in front of an IHOP. The bomb did not detonate, and Olson went on the lam after prosecutors handed down an indictment against her and several other SLA terrorists.
Since being released from prison, Olson has become involved in an effort to reform drug-related prison sentencing. She has petitioned President Obama to end the disparity between cocaine and crack sentencing.
The House Homeland Security Transportation Security Subcommittee is set to hold a hearing on Wednesday to weigh the future of TSA’s PreCheck program.