Investigation: Airport security - Dallas News |

Investigation: Airport security

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Security flaws at the Dallas/ Fort Worth International Airport are raising serious concerns about safety and just who is being hired to work on airplanes. Some believe the flying public is at risk.

Airport employees have to go through a rigorous background check to work in restricted areas of the airport. You must have a badge to open secured doors. Some airport employees are questioning why some workers are bypassing the security.

Passengers know the drill. It is all a part of flying. They must remove their electronics, shoes, jackets and belts. They must step into a scanning booth and stand for a pat down. But some airport employees say all of that scrutiny gives passengers a false sense of security because of what is going on beyond the security check point.

"This is a volatile, dangerous, international terrorist situation in the setting, said an airport employee.

"It is not just a local problem, it is definitely a national security problem," said another employee.

Both of these airport employees have worked at DFW for decades. They did not want their faces shown for fear of retaliation.

They say the airport security policy has changed and it is putting the public at risk.

Starting back in December, Fox 4 started watching employee portals and secured areas that are usually off limits unless you have the proper credentials. A badge means you have been through a thorough background check.

Some employees do it correctly. Fox 4 watched as they scan their badge and enter the secured are, then wait for the door to close behind them, one at a time. But that is not what Fox 4 saw happening all over the airport, especially with the airplane cleaners.

Over and Over again, Fox 4 saw cleaners showing up with supplies and large bags. Sometimes they would wait around, then enter the secured area while passengers were getting off the plane. Other times, someone with a walkie talkie would show up and escort several people onto the plane but then minutes later, another one would slip in without ever swiping a badge. And Fox 4 saw that happen day after day, all over the airport.

Fox 4 showed the videotape to Denny Kelly, a nationally recognized aviation and security expert. Fox 4 showed him doors to secured areas propped open and piggybacking, where one employee goes in behind another employee with a badge.

"Should never happen," said Kelly.

"We are seeing one person swiping a badge and other people going in behind them," Becky Oliver said.

"That concerns me tremendously," said Kelly.

Kelly says if employees need an escort, he questions if there has been any background check at all and why are they being allowed on the plane. And he questions how anyone can watch all of these people while they are cleaning.

"If he lets 5 people on that airplane, he cannot watch them all the time. It is impossible," said Kelly. "All that person has to do is have one person with one weapon in one bucket, in one trash bag and when he is not looking, boom."

In the DFW Ramp Operations Manual, it clearly states badge holders commit an offense if they fail to "properly escort." That means maintaining "visual and audible" contact at all times. It is an offense if they allow "piggybacking" or "tailgating" and if they "fail to challenge an unbadged individuals."

For decades, employees said they have been required to challenge anyone who looks suspicious. The Transportation Security Administration or TSA even baits employees to test them to ensure they are being observant. But employees say not anymore.

" We are told to leave them alone, back off, don't question them," said an employee. "These people don't even have legal badges to open a portal door and get on a jet bridge and they are out working on those planes."

"No one seems to be doing anything except allowing them to carry on," said another employee.

Back in April 2012, The TSA admitted it was allowing some airports "Interim Regulatory Relief." That means some airport employers could hire without the completed background checks. But there are still minimum standards and every airport has its own security plan.

So are these airport workers going through security when they arrive at work? Fox 4 sat and watched the parking lot where there are big signs posted. They clearly say, "No piggybacking, No escorting," but Fox 4 watched employees piggybacking right from the unsecured employee parking lot and we caught it on tape more than once.

Fox 4 contacted the DFW Airport Administration and the TSA. No one is commenting.

"The security today is no better than it was on September 10, 2001 because people don't want to spend the money to do it right," said Kelly.

"The standard has changed," said the airport employee. "There is no time for us to sit back and to turn a blind eye to any of this. That is when it is going to happen again."

Fox 4 also contacted Air Serv Corp., the company that hires the airplane cleaners. Fox 4 was directed to ABM Industries Inc., a company that recently purchased Air Serv in October 2012. A spokesman at ABM said the company has no comment.

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