TSA chief on EgyptAir crash: 'What we do is important'

TSA chief on EgyptAir crash: 'What we do is important'

The head of the Transportation Security Administration said on Friday that this week’s crash of an EgyptAir jet in the Mediterranean Sea is a “stark reminder” of the need for tough airport security, even as his agency faces criticism for long lines at some major airports.

“We still don’t know what happened there,” Administrator Peter Neffenger said on Friday, during a press conference at Chicago’s O’Hare airport. “Our hearts go out to the families and friends of the people who were lost.”

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“But most importantly, it’s a stark reminder that what we do is important. We need to do it well, and we need to do it efficiently,” he said.

Officials have yet to determine why EgyptAir Flight 804 disappeared into the Mediterranean earlier this week, even as debris and human remains are reportedly being discovered. All 66 people onboard the fight are presumed to have been killed in the crash.

Speculation has swirled around the possibility that the Airbus A320 was downed in an act of terrorism, similar to the attack that brought down Metrojet Flight 9268 over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula last October. A branch of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria took responsibility for that incident.

The TSA has not announced increased security measures in light of the plane crash this week. After major terror attacks in the past, such as this year’s bombing at Brussels’s main airport, the agency has ramped up efforts at major airports and transit stations.

In the immediate aftermath of this week's crash, prominent officials have focused on the possibility than someone inside Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport — the origin of the EgyptAir jet’s flight — might have been able to sabotage it.

“If you have an insider threat — somebody corrupted or radicalized or bribed — that’s scary,” House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said on Thursday.

Neffenger insisted on Friday that airline employees in the U.S. are thoroughly vetted using terrorist screening lists and criminal background checks.

Scrutiny about the possibility of terror attacks targeting airplanes comes as the TSA is facing a firestorm of criticism for long lines at major U.S. airports such as O’Hare, which have delayed passenger by multiple hours.

The TSA has blamed the delays on a combination of budget limits, staffing shortfalls and passengers’ slow adoption of the PreCheck program. On Friday, four more airlines were added to the rapid screening program in an effort to deal with the crush of long lines.

But long lines are likely to persist, Neffenger said on Friday.

“I think this summer is going to continue to be a challenge,” he said.

Melanie Zanona contributed