Security at the Stewart International Airport in N.Y. failed to screen names against the U.S. government’s “No Fly” terrorist watchlist for an unknown period of time because they reportedly “did not have access” to it.
Badge-holding employees and flyers couldn’t be properly screened and vetted at the airport, which attends to hundreds of thousands of passengers every year, according to secret documents that were leaked and ultimately obtained by ZDNet.
The manager of the airport revealed they eventually had to carry out certain background checks with the help of the relatively close Westchester County Airport. It is not clear how long the official security protocol excluded the “No Fly List.”
The government’s list is estimated to have around 47,000 names on it, including 800 U.S. citizens, according to USA Today.
It should be noted that while it’s widely used by the federal government, the “No Fly List” has its flaws, specifically by including a couple of elected officials, like former Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy and Democratic Rep. John Lewis.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) conducted at least 15 separate investigations into the airport roughly 60 miles north of Manhattan, which revealed even more dangerous security failures within the last decade, according to ZDNet.
The first investigation letter shows that employees who worked within the corporate transit zone installed card readers that granted them entry into the highly restricted tarmac area where planes arrive and depart.
An unsecured baggage carousel key was found in 2011 after a member of an airline’s staff reportedly lent it to a worker for another employer, according to a letter of investigation acquired by ZDNet.
Another report describes multiple violations in which unauthorized contractors and visitors were able to access highly sensitive and restricted parts of the airport, all without proper supervision.
A lack of tight security at smaller airports worries federal agencies because would-be terrorists may try to use them to avoid more established airports.
The Department of Homeland Security reportedly said in 2016 that terrorists “may continue to choose smaller airports … as preferred, more attractive departure points for foreign fighter travel” due to a perceived lack of stringency in comparison to larger international airports, according to a intelligence note obtained by ZDNet.
While TSA conducted the investigations at Stewart International Airport, the government agency has had some of their own security problems.
Agents of the Department of Homeland Security in the summer of 2015, for example, disguised themselves as normal passengers and brought various forbidden weapons to test TSA employees, according to agency officials. The results: TSA agents were only able to detect three out of 70 weapons, which is a 95 percent failure rate. The acting chairman of the TSA at the time, Melvin Carraway, was immediately reassigned, according to NBC News. (RELATED: The Answer To Every Question On This Police Suicide Bomber Quiz Appears To Be ‘Male Muslim Extremist’)
Soon after, TSA failed to identify 73 aviation workers who were also on terrorist watch lists. And more recently, TSA agents were caught smuggling 20 tons of cocaine from Puerto Rico as part of a complex drug ring.
The TSA is also accused of poor security protocol at smaller airports, specifically neglecting perimeter security for the less-used transportation hubs across the country for several years, according to a Government Accountability Office report.
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