Airport Security: The Post 9/11 Age Airport security in the world we live in today is drastically different then the security we knew before the events of September 11, 2001, when four passenger airliners were high-jacked over the skies of the United States, causing a global terror pandemic that still has long lasting effects today. We will look at, discuss and break down some of the key features of airport security in Canada as well as the United States, that have been improved, as well as certain security programs and features which were freshly implemented as a direct result.
We will discuss “no-fly lists,” personnel training and armament, and the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority or “CATSA,” including their security screening techniques and procedures (screening, responsibilities, Air Marshalls). The “No-Fly List” was created shortly after the events of 9/11, by the United States government’s Terrorist Screening Center (TSC). The list includes the names of people who are deemed unsafe, or a threat to Airline security and are no longer permitted to board a commercial airline for the purpose of travel coming in or out of the United States.
The list now contains roughly 10,000 names (2011), the number people on the list fluctuates based on threat, and intelligence reporting. Canada also has a similar list called the “Passenger Protect,” a similar initiative to that of the United States list, implemented on June 18, 2007 in order to identify people who could be a threat to the security of aviation, and prevent them from boarding Canadian domestic flights as well as International flights to or from Canada.
The program works by the government supplying the Specified Persons List to Airlines, who then compare names of people on the list with individuals who intend on boarding flights. When the airline finds a name match, they then reference the individual’s government-issued identification to confirm. The identification is then once more confirmed in person at the airport check-in area, when a confirmation has been established Transport Canada is immediately notified.
Training is also provided by Transport Canada to the airlines to teach staff and agents how to implement the ID verification process, and establish procedures to ensure the rights of the passengers are respected. Of course with a system like this, controversy is brought up by civil liberty organizations citing their concerns for civil liberties, racial profiling, privacy, and the perceived failure of the no-fly list created in the United States. In the United States, several anomalies’ referred to as “false positives” have risen.
A “false positive” happens when an individual who is actually not on the no-fly list, has a name matching or similar to a name on the list. One notable case of a false positive includes a United States Marine in April of 2006, who was flying home from Iraq when he was prohibited from boarding his flight home, as his name matched one on the no-fly list. The lists, although very controversial both here in Canada and in the United States play an important role in establishing airport/airline safety and security, and ensuring an event such as the attacks on September 11, 2001 will not re-occur.
Secondly, the way Security Personnel are trained and armed has been drastically affected in the post 9/11 world. In the United States, immediately after the attacks for several weeks to months afterwards, fully armed guards, either Local Police or National Guard would patrol airports in full tactical gear wielding assault rifles or tactical shotguns. In Canada the response was similar, however not as fully extended as in the United States.
In Canada today, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) which is thoroughly explained in the next topic, handles all screening procedures by hiring third party private security firms to conduct screening. Our general airport security providing safety is executed by local Police forces. The RCMP once used to handle all general airport security, now only handles a few airports including Edmonton International Airport. Edmonton International Airport has a detachment of the RCMP located on site to ensure a quick and proper response to emergencies, ecurity and policing needs. The Police members on site are trained in emergency preparedness in order to be able to respond to a wide range of situations, including terrorism attacks. In addition to human Police officers, many airports such as Edmonton’s, implement canine members for certain situations such as sniffing out drugs, weapons, people, and explosives. In Edmonton specifically, at the RCMP airport detachment, they have Badge, a German Sheppard trained in attacking criminals, searching for lost people or baggage, as well as the ability to sniff out 15 different explosives.
As well as the main goal of airport security of keeping a safe and problem free environment, security also includes Emergency Response Services (ERS). Fire and medical services are always ready at a moment’s notice 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for emergencies such as fires, aircraft mayday emergencies, and terrorist attacks. The Emergency Response Services are always highly trained and outfitted with top of the line vehicles and equipment to deal with any situation, and all have requirements and policies on stringent response times.
An example of the preparedness by the ERS in Edmonton is their ability to make it from the fire hall located on site to the mid-point on the furthest runway in 3 minutes. Finally, as a direct result of the attacks of September 11, 2001 we seen the formation of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority or “CATSA,” in December 2001, introduced by then Finance Minister Paul Martin, which included a very comprehensive plan aimed at enhancing economic and personal security in Canada.
In April of 2002 CATSA took over responsibility of passenger and employee screening, although they still hire private security companies to do much of the screening, CATSA still oversees training and equipment available. CATSA states their mission is “to protect the public by securing critical elements of the air transportation system… ” Their responsibilities can be grouped into four major areas; Pre-board screening, hold baggage screening, non-passenger screening, and Restricted Area Identity Cards.
Pre-board screening is done by Private Security firms hired and governed by CATSA, their tasks include getting all carry-on items coming onto an aircraft to go through X-ray, individuals must then pass through metal detectors and physical searches can and will be executed if an alarm is raised either through the metal detector, or random selection. Full body scanners are also used to reveal weapons, objects or explosives hidden under or within clothing. CATSA also implements the use of Explosive Detection Trace (EDT) technology at security checkpoints; this involves a quick swabbing of carry-on items or hands to test for explosives.
Hold-Baggage Screening (HBS) is another major area of CATSA, this is what happens to our baggage once it has been checked in and is on its way to be loaded onto the aircraft. This is the process of screening all checked baggage using a combination of state-of-the-art explosive detection technology, as well as highly trained security personnel. During HBS the density of baggage is tested as well as additional testing for trace amounts of chemicals. HBS is currently in full deployment in 89 airports across Canada since 2006, for all domestic and international flights.
CATSA is responsible for the instillation, deployment and renovations of HBS systems as well as regulatory compliance monitoring. Another major area of CATSA is non-passenger screening (NPS), this is required by Transport Canada starting back in 2004 and involves the random screening of people who work at the airports, these people can include flight crews, airport crews, caterers, maintenance workers, and baggage handlers. This subjects employees to unpredictable security screenings at entry points within airport restricted areas, the screening process is similar to that of the passenger screening, and also includes an Identification check.
CATSA states that they screen 2,500 employees a day out of the 100,000 employees who have access to secure areas in Canadian airports. They also state that this program is continually evolving, as the only constant is “the cooperation needed between screening officers and non-passengers. ” The fourth noted area of CATSA is the Restricted Area Identity Card (RAIC) program, which is constantly advancing through the use of biometric scanners. The RAIC program uses state-of-the-art duel biometric scanner identification programs to ensure the identity of the personnel who have restricted access.
The program includes cards with built-in microchips to store biometric information of fingerprint and iris scanner templates. The RAIC program has been fully functional since January 31, 2007 in over 28 major airports in Canada. It’s notable that the biometric technology used here is also utilized in non-passenger screening and these two programs work in conjunction with one another. CATSA also jointly implements the Canadian Air Carrier Protective Program (CACPP) with Transport Canada; this program is similar to that of the U.
S. Sky Marshall Program. This program strategically places highly trained, armed, undercover RCMP members, also known as In-Flight Security Officers (IFSOs), on Canadian registered commercial airliners. IFSOs mandate is to be able to successfully prevent the aircraft from being taken over by an unauthorized individual(s), as well as gather and interpret intelligence on terrorist and criminal activity within civil aviation. In conclusion, airport security in North America and the world will continue to grow and prosper.
In the post 9/11 world today, policies and procedures will only grow tighter and more stringent in an effort to prevent terrorism. From no-fly lists created to prevent the wrong people from boarding passenger planes, to tighter and better trained local Police and Security personnel on the front lines preforming screening, security and emergency response services. To government initiatives like the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority providing important and well-rounded security systems from x-ray scanners to In-Flight Security Officers, the airline industry has never been more stringent in counter terrorism.
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