TSA pressed on airport security after stowaway

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Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) pressed the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) on its role in allowing a teenager to stowaway on a flight from San Jose to Hawaii during a committee hearing this week. 

Boxer said the TSA approved the San Jose airport for compliance with federal regulations for airport perimeter security weeks before the teenager snuck into restricted areas and hid in the landing gear of a Hawaiian Airlines flight. 

"Are you concerned that your organization cleared this airport just three weeks before and said they were in compliance, including physical barriers and electronic access control systems,” Boxer asked TSA Administrator John Pistole during a hearing of the Senate’s transportation committee. 

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Pistole responded that it was not possible to ensure that airports would never been vulnerable to security lapses. 

“I would like to draw a distinction between what our regulatory compliance work is to say they have the systems in place,” the TSA chief said. “The question is, do they work at every instance? And there is no 100 percent solution here, senator, as you know. So we can build fortresses around airports for access."

Boxer pressed further, asking Pistole about the effectiveness of multiple defenses TSA touts as a mechanism for avoiding security breaches in the case of the San Jose stowaway. 

“What's the layered defense here,” she asked. 

Pistole said the layered approach has been used successfully in other airports. 

“There are a number of opportunities,” he said. “There could be armed officers or with canines out patrolling. There could be better CCTV coverage, there could be a second fence in some situations. You could look at the [Isreali] Ben Gurion Airport to see what they do."

Boxer said she wanted to see some of the international safety mechanisms brought to U.S. airports. 

“Well, let's do it,” she said.  “You cleared them and that's troubling to me. Why didn't you know that they didn't have the dogs? Is something wrong here? I'm very worried about this, because it isn't enough to fill out a piece of paper and say 'check.' This is really serious business. Really serious business. What if it was someone else with an explosive that got on that plane?"

 

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