The US House Aviation Subcommittee yesterday heard how congressional investigators used false IDs to gain access to a series of federal buildings and two commercial airports, and how a copy of the report detailing their success was later found in an al-Qaida cave in Afghanistan. The investigators were 100 per cent successful in getting past security, but apparently less so in the case of their own report's security.
Subcommittee Chairman John Mica told a hearing on biometric ID in aviation that the deployment of more secure ID needed to be accelerated, given that terrorists are interested in gaining access to restricted airport areas. The congressional investigators had made their fake IDs using software downloaded from the Internet, and apparently this passed muster.
Documentation presented to the hearing however included even more comforting information about the security of the US aviation industry. If you look down near the bottom of this document, in the section covering the Registered Traveler program you will find a subsection dealing with Law Enforcement Officer (LEO) Credentials. As you see, it says: "Currently, Federal LEO’s can fly armed at any time, simply by presenting their agency's credential. In addition, LEO’s from 18,000 separate State and local law enforcement agencies may fly armed if they present their agency's credential and a letter on their agency's letterhead stating that they have an official, work-related reason to fly armed. The use of so many different types of law enforcement credentials increases the risk that an unauthorized person could use a forged credential to carry a gun on-board."
Under the Registered Traveler Pilot program LEOs wishing to fly armed will have biometric ID issued by the Transportation Security Administration saying so, but it's not clear to us whether this will mean LEOs from the 18,000 non-Federal agencies will have to have this if they want to fly armed, or whether the letterhead will still be enough. The pilot program starts at five airports next month, and one would hope that the authorities elsewhere will be taking extra special care in scrutinising LEO credentials pending a wider rollout. ®