Security on airport employees?

I passed through a couple of airports yesterday, so I wnet through the whole TSA security procedures. Shoes off, coat off, open all your bags, x-ray all the contents, walk through the metal detector, etc. Now I was flying on a plane and I’m as interested as the next passenger in not having a hijacking but I was wondering if they had missed a huge gap in their security coverage.

As I was waiting for my flight, inside the supposed secured area, I was surrounded by dozens of fast food places, newstands, gift shops, shoe shine stands, coffee shops, etc. which must have hundreds of employees. And it seems to me that the security checks on hiring these employees probably isn’t much deeper than the procedures for hiring their counterparts in your average mall.

If I was a member of some terrorist organization, I wouldn’t try to smuggle a bomb or a gun through the security checkpoint. I’d buy a ticket and go through with nice innocent luggage. Meanwhile, my comrade Achmed gets a job at the airport Starbucks. He works there for a couple weeks and then on the day of my hijacking he brings a weapon in to work in his lunchbox. After I’ve passed through security, I stop at his place, buy a latte and he passes me the weapon. I then catch my flight and paradise awaits me.

They go through security too I believe. Smuggling in contraband might be easier through the delivery trucks though - I assume they don’t get the same level of review.

This reminds me of an article I read yesterday.

It’s about how security at smaller, regional airports probably isn’t as good as at bigger ones, and how that’s a hole in the system. One of the examples is that the checkpoints are sometimes visible from airport eateries and shops.

Oh no! People can SEE the checkpoints?! Well, we must have barriers so the security area is in turn secure!

But wait… When you drive to the airport there is no security screening for your car.

And… and… airports are marked on MAPS that just anyone can see! It’s publicly available information!

My point being… meh. If anyone wants to start some s**t at an airport, or anywhere else, they probably can if they’re sufficiently motivated and can keep a secret. I’m done worrying about this, and wish everyone else would stop being paranoid about it. Note to world: Yes, we should have some common-sense security, but we need to stop losing our collective minds obsessing about it.

When I worked at an airport, I was thoroughly vetted beforehand.

But were you searched and your stuff X-rayed every day when you came to work? A terrorist wouldn’t necessarily have a criminal record, and might pass a background check, and then once he’s established as a worker at the airport, smuggle something in, as suggested in the O.P.

I’m no expert but I’ve actually seen the security staff having to go through themselves on shift changes. I would imagine they would hold the employees of the Starbucks or McDonalds or whatever on the other side of the gate to at least the same standard as themselves. It’s my understanding that no one gets to the other side of the gate without getting checked out.

Having worked in prisons, I know that there are security procedures that exist on paper but not always in reality. The employees you see every day often don’t get the same level of scrutiny that outsiders get, even if that’s what’s supposed to be happening.

Whe I worked at one (roughly 2003-2007) this was indeed the case. I wasn’t with TSA, but I did spend a good portion of my time at the checkpoint. Every employee who wanted to pass from the unsecured area to the secured area was screened.

Stores and restaurants moving stock to shops on the concourses had to send everything through the x-ray machince. They would show up with a cart, unload it, and then load it back again on the other side. They were only supposed to restock later in the day when it was slower, both to keep people from seeing them and because they’d take up an x-ray machine that could be put to better use while it was busy.

Now you could get around this if you had a badge that allowed access to the ramp. Basically you went outside and then up to the concourses carrying whatever you wanted. There were supposedly random checks of people going through the ramp doors (not wanding or anything, they’d just make you open your bag and they’d take a quick look) but I never had this happen to me or any of my friends.

But for badges you did have to vetted. I had my fingerprints ran and a 10 year background check. I remember them calling my old elementary school to verify that I was a student there.

Obviously it’s like Mach Tuck said, you aren’t going to stop the determined, just the stupid. However after dealing with the public at an airport I’m pretty sure that’s good enough to stop 99% of humanity.

Amusingly you get so use to the whole process that it doesn’t even register anymore. I remember a group of us used some free tickets we got from Delta to go to DC for a few days. We went to one of the museums there and they had a metal detector set up before you went in. We didn’t even break stride or drop the conversation as we walked up and started removing shoes and belts. The security guards had to come and stop us before we got too far. Seems their metal detectors weren’t set that high and they didn’t want us stripping. We actually stood around confused for a few minutes as we got over the shock of wearing shoes and belts through a metal detector.

No, I wasn’t.

Most employees get searched at the checkpoint, but some others don’t. Anyone working in a shop or restaurant will probably have to go through security, since they don’t need to access any secure areas for their job. But airline employees, like ramp workers or baggage handlers, do, and an airport generally has dozens of ways to get anywhere through the various access doors. You can’t possibly watch them all. As a TSA employee, I’ve always been concerned about the insider threat. There is a background check, fingerprinting, etc, on all employees, but that only works if the person’s been caught before.

At my airport, at least, they are finally starting to get serious about employees and are drastically cutting down on the number of employees who have access to secure areas. When I started almost five years ago, almost every employee was able to bypass security, but now most of them have to go through. And some access doors have been closed, so it’s easier to control who goes in. Still, it definitely remains a hole for someone who knows the system.

A couple of years ago a reporter tried to slip trough security at Schiphol airport (Amsterdam, international and quite large by European standards) as a groundworker on the runways. It was no problem, we could all see it through a hidden camera, he just walked in and threw a bomb-like device inro the baggage area of one of the planes. I do think they have upped security since then though… But I strongly belief that if someone wants to blow a plane, he won’t be stopped by the security checks.

Airports also have huge perimeter fences which can’t possibly be completely watched or monitored. A pair of wire cutters and a plausible looking ground staff uniform would do the job, especially in rain or fog.

Airport security exists mostly to make passengers feel safer psychologically and for politicians to be seen to be doing something.

I was somewhat rushed when I wrote my original response. I’ll just reiterate that while I was not checked every day, I was thoroughly vetted. Further, on the rare occasions that I had anything to do with an actual aeroplane, I was always accompanied.

Thank you. This is actually somewhat reassuring–as you say, no system is perfect, but it does sound like a good attempt.

Security for airport employees is an utter farce and easily defeated.

As a rule of thumb, airport employees do pass through security, but if they are badged they do not get anywhere near the same once-over as ordinary flyers from TSA. Nor do the various supplies and trucks get much inspection at all.

I fly reasonably often (a bit over a hundred flights a year, on average) and I find screening procedures comically inadequate, although on occasion I’ve seen TSA (in their determination not to “profile”) give an old lady a really thorough wanding.

I don’t believe for one moment that real background checks are given to airport personnel and I’d be stunned if many of them could even provide citizenship proof. Last week, as an example, I was at DEN and about 20 airport employees went through ahead of me. Very cursory inspections, and not a single one even removed their shoes. For a laugh, I decided to walk through with my shoes on. Ms Rebecca Quinones of TSA promptly stopped me and asked me to take my shoes off. I inquired why I had to, since none of the folks who just went through removed their shoes. It was not a hostile exchange; just informative. Mr Howard Hinson, TSA badge 144014 (and in charge of TSA for that checkpoint that day) told me the airport policies were not of concern to me, but that should I have a complaint, I could contact TSA “in Washington” at 866-289-9673, or email them:

Since I’ve had a few other laughs with TSA in the past (My name is on one of the watch lists) I just moved on, and decided to wait until I cooled off to see if it was worth complaining about.

I’m sure either of the TSA individuals I mentioned would corroborate this little example. They are generally nice people, but they don’t seem to get simple concepts. If I wanted to get on a plane with a weaponized shoe, I’d bribe the $10/hr guy to wear the shoes across security, and then just pick them up on the other side. There a hundred other ways to defeat TSA security, but to the point of the OP, employees and airport-side goods are an example of a pretty big chink in the armour, so to speak.