Transportation Security Administration Research Paper

Pages: 7 (2347 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 6  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Transportation

Transportation Security Administration

Airport Security (A Sweeping Change)

Whole Body Scanning

Innovative Technologies

Sterile Area Access (Employee Screening)

Higher Standards For Hiring

Transport Security Administration

Security concerns are adding to the woes of the airline industry already hit by high oil prices and labor union problems. Terrorists are becoming increasingly adept in evading the conventional screening techniques. In the wake of the recent security threats, there is also a growing consensus that it is now necessary to sacrifice some of our privacy concerns to guarantee overall safety. Comprehensive whole body scanning systems should be implemented while innovative approaches such as the ultra precise T-ray scanners should be introduced in the near future. Elaborate security protocols including routine screening of airline staff should be immediately implemented. Also, the TSA should maintain higher hiring standards and only recruit people with high aptitude who could balance the requirements of the job without unduly compromising the customer service.

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TOPIC: Research Paper on Transportation Security Administration Assignment

Post September 11, the security situation at our airports has changed dramatically. Not only within the U.S., but airports around the world have also witnessed a dramatic change in security protocol. In order to prevent another tragic event like 9/11, all airports have beefed up their security polices. In response to the growing public concern about airport security, the congress approved federalization of airport security to eliminate inconsistencies with private security service providers and to improve the overall standards of the security process. Comprehensive screening systems including 'Explosion Detection Systems' (EDS), 'Explosion Trace Detection systems' (ETD), Sniffer dogs and manual screening methods are in place [Garrick Blalock, 2005]. Recently, the Transport Security Administration (TSA) is also using advanced computer systems such as the CAPPS 2 (computer assisted passenger pre-screening systems) for pre-screening all passengers. This has however, triggered controversies as passenger profiling or 'Group listing' could easily be misused or result in discrimination. Other new screening systems such as the whole body scanners have also been disputed as being overly intrusive and a clear breach of passenger privacy. A brief overview of the airport security screening process and the pertinent issues would provide better insight into this topic.

Airport Security (A Sweeping Change)

After the devastating Al-qaeda attacks in Sep 2001, the security measures across all the airports in the country have been more rigorous. The TSA recruited as many as 55,000 new federal employees as screeners by the end of 2002. However, widespread public complaints that there were too many screeners at the airports lead to limiting the total number screeners to a maximum of 45,000. Federalization reduced the attrition rate of the screeners from close to 100% when it was under private management to less than 20% . Also, as a backup, the TSA created and maintained a pool of 700+ screeners who could be deployed to airports anywhere across the country that experienced a shortage of screeners. [Jeffery Price, 2009, pg 196] However, staffing and training issues continue to be a big problem for the TSA and the effectiveness of the screeners in locating explosives or weapons is disappointing. For instance, in 2003, when all these new changes were already in place, Department of Homeland Security (DSH) officials were able to pass through all the security systems with weapons in 15 airports across the country without any detection. [Jeffery Price, 2009, pg 196]

Whole Body Scanning

As the recent episode in which a Nigerian managed to carry explosive substances hidden in a syringe in his underwear shows, airport security in spite of the elaborate screening systems in place is not foolproof. To allay any future security concerns about terrorists hiding explosives or dangerous weapons concealed in their garments it is necessary to make a thorough check. Whole body scanning appears to be the best solution. The use of whole body scanning is already in place in many U.S. airports and it is necessary to make it mandatory to all airports across the country. In Europe however, controversies relating to privacy concerns have limited the use of whole body scanning instruments to a few airports.

On Christmas day, Umar AbdulMutallab, a Nigerian terrorist went through the normal airport screening requirements at the busy Schiphol airport in Amsterdam and was cleared though he had hidden explosive in his inner garments. Relating to the security lapse the spokesman of Schiphol airport, Ad Rutten, said, "Everything was according to the rules. But the rules don't cover the risks yet." [Reuters, Dec 2009] The fact is that the airport had 15 whole body scanners but none of them were used. Had these scanners been on use on that day, Umar AbdulMutallab would have been nabbed by the airport security officers at Schiphol and a potential threat could have been easily stopped. Also the 'Whole body scanning ' machines enjoy increased popularity among passengers. Many of them choose this option instead of the regular 'pat down' search. Currently the TSA has 40 whole body scanners that are deployed in 19 U.S. airports but in the current year another 450 scanners are to be added and distributed across all the 450 airports in the country. This would be a significant step in airport security. [PBS]

Currently there are two kinds of technologies used for whole body scanning. One is the millimeter wave scanning technology that uses harmless electromagnetic waves to create a 3D image of the body. The other is the backscatter machine that takes double X-rays to create a two-sided image. The use of X-rays is debatable as they are potentially harmful to human tissues. However, as Dr. Mahadevappa Mahesh, chief physicist at Johns Hopkins University, says, "The radiation dose levels are quite low. Compared to a medical chest X-ray, typical backscatters you need to acquire or go through these scanners nearly 1,000 to 2,000 times before the dose reaches to a typical chest X-ray."[PBS] It is also more convenient for the passengers in that the technology works faster (15 and 30 seconds) which drastically speeds up the security clearance process and reduces the wait time for all passengers. So these whole body-scanning devices are safe for the customers.

The only other issue with using them is that it is very intrusive. Privacy advocates such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the EPIC have cautioned that there is potential for abuse in using the whole body scanning devices. As Coney, an advocate with EPIC says, "What they're showing you now is a dumbed-down version of what this technology is capable of doing," she said. "Having blurry images shouldn't blur the issue.." Chris Calabrese, a lawyer with the ACLU also expresses similar concern, "Screeners at LAX [Los Angeles International Airport] could make a fortune off naked virtual images of celebrities." [Jessica Ravitz] But as Dr. Mahadevappa Mahesh says, "What happens is, like, the person who is asking the public to scan is not there next to the scanner. He's somewhere remotely. So, there's less chances of somebody seeing a supermodel next to the scanner, and next see their image and trying to sell it off to "The National Enquirer" and all those things that has been the concern of the public." [PBS] There is also a strong consensus among the security professionals that given the gravity of the security issues and the intent of the terrorists, it is now necessary to sacrifice some of our privacy concerns to guarantee overall safety.

Innovative Technologies

Research is already underway at inventing new ultra precise scanning systems that would be highly accurate as a scanning device. In fact, MIT engineers have already devised the prototype of a new terahertz rays or T-rays-based laser scanning system that is not only much safer compared to the X-rays but are also highly precise. T-rays can penetrate human tissues, metals and plastics and have the capability to assess objects in terms of their chemical composition as the rate of molecular absorption of the T-rays depends on the chemical composition of the scanned objects. [Airport News, 2009] Besides this, a Canadian inventor has recently produced a 3D scanner that is very efficient in detecting metal and organic matter without displaying the entire outline of the body. If this technology could be successfully implemented, it should solve all the privacy issues that are bogging the use of whole body scanners.

Sterile Area Access (Employee Screening)

Terrorists have the knack to outsmart the security technology and to exploit the patterns and loopholes in the system. Hence there is a continuous need to improve and tighten security in all regions of the airport. Particularly, the sterile zones in the airport should be effectively monitored. Besides passenger and baggage screening, routine screening for all airport staff and crewmembers who access the sterile zone should also be made mandatory. The 2007 incident that happened at the Orlando airport in Florida is shocking. Orlando police got a tip off that dangerous weapons are being smuggled on board Delta Airlines flight that was slated for Puerto Rico. Immediately the plane was landed back in Orlando airport and all the passengers and baggage screened… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Transportation Security Administration" Research Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Transportation Security Administration.  (2010, April 17).  Retrieved September 27, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Transportation Security Administration."  17 April 2010.  Web.  27 September 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Transportation Security Administration."  April 17, 2010.  Accessed September 27, 2021.