Evolution of Airport Security Essay

The purpose of this paper is to track the evolution of the system of airline security in the United States. A major turning point in Americas system of airline security was the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. It is important to understand the history of airline security before 9/11 to then see how terrorists exploited the system’s weaknesses. It is then necessary to analyze how the U. S. federal government responded to 9/11 and how airline security procedures have evolved since then.

This paper thoroughly outlines how airport and aircraft security protocol has adapted over the years to provide a background and understanding of Americas current system of airline security. It is also important to review the numerous controversies resulting from new security measures. Finally, this paper examines past trends to try and foresee future developments for airline security in the U. S. One of America’s most important concerns in the 21st century is the threat of another terrorist attack. The events of September 11, 2001 have had a lasting affect on all aspects of society.

One of the most drastic changes occurred within the country’s law enforcement system; mainly the security of America’s aviation system. The new model for airport and aircraft security has faced a lot of opposition from advocates for individual rights, who believe many of these new laws and procedures are unnecessary and in some cases illegal. To get a better understanding of the current system, it is important to first examine aviation security prior to 9/11 and how the system has changed since. The first recorded hijacking of an aircraft took place in 1931 when a group f Peruvian revolutionaries seized pilot Byron Rickards and his airplane.

By the late 1950’s, the number of plane hijackings was dramatically increasing which resulted in many airports implementing the first security measures to screen passengers. One of the new security measures used was metal detectors to prevent passengers from carrying firearms or other contraband onto airplanes. Another response to increased hijackings was the creation of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) under the Federal Aviation Act of 1958. Some of the FAA’s major goals were to regulate U. S. ir traffic and civil aviation to ensure safety. In 1966, Congress created the Department of Transportation, which absorbed the FAA. Despite the creation of the FAA and the use of new screening procedures, hijackings still increased, and in 1969 there was a record 82 hijackings. In another attempt to reduce hijackings and increase airline safety, the Federal Air Marshal Service was created in 1970. Under this program, armed and anonymous marshals would ride on passenger flights to increase security. In addition to the Air Marshall program, in 1972 the FAA required all airports to screen passengers and their carry-on bags.

Under this new rule, airports outsourced the job of screening passengers to private security companies. Another call for enhanced airline security came in 1976 in response to the first actual terrorist attack against an aircraft. Cubana Flight 455 was blown up mid-flight by hidden explosives. Everyone on the plane died. This attack shocked the airline industry and again many airports began to increase their security by adding more screening check points, metal detectors, and x-ray machines. Another advancement to airport security occurred during the 1980’s.

This decade saw an increased war on drugs, including the smuggling of illicit narcotics into the United States via commercial flights. To combat this issue, drug-sniffing dogs as well as new pat-down methods were adopted by airports. These security measures basically remained the same up until 9/11. On that date, Nineteen terrorists were able to hijack four commercial flights, flying two into the Twin Towers and another into the Pentagon. These attacks emphasized the weakness of the current aviation security system and emphasized the need for increased security.

For example, some of the terrorists reportedly set off airport metal detectors but screeners were unable to find any contraband so they were allowed on the flight. Also, a number of the hijackers lacked proper identification but were still allowed to board the plane. Within days after 9/11, the FAA created a number of new security protocols to prevent any future terrorist attacks. The first change enacted by the FAA was the complete ban of any type of knife or cutting instrument, even those made of plastic or other non-metallic material.

Prior to 9/11, knives were allowed onto flights as long as the blade was less then four inches. This ban addressed a key issue with the old security protocol because a number of the hijackers were able to legally carry box cutters onto their flights, which they then used to take over the planes. The second change was to eliminate the use of curbside check in. Officials were also worried that terrorist may try to hide an explosive device within mail or cargo, so the FAA banned all passenger aircraft from carrying cargo or mail.

Another policy created in response to 9/11 was to tow any unattended vehicle parked within 300 ft of an airport to prevent a car bomb attack. Roughly a month after 9/11, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was created within the DOT under the recently passed Aviation Transportation Security Act. The TSA was tasked with three mandates: The first was that the TSA would now be responsible for the security of all modes of transportation. The second mandate was that the TSA must recruit, train, and deploy 55,000 security officers for 450 airports within one year.

The third task was to provide 100 percent screening of all check in luggage for explosives within one year. Soon after the TSA was created, officials enacted additional security measures in an attempt to prevent another terrorist attack. The first area addressed was the pilot’s cockpit within airplanes. During the 9/11 attacks, hijackers were able to force their way into the cockpit or were successful in coercing pilots out of the cockpit. To make these areas more secure, the TSA required the doors to have durable locks as well as be bullet proof.

Unlike the past, passengers were now strictly forbidden from entering the cockpit. Pilots were also granted the ability to carry a firearm as long as they received proper training. In addition to adding more security features, the TSA also asked the federal government to strengthened the Air Marshal program. Before 9/11, the Air Marshal program was made up of less then 50 armed marshals who only flew on U. S. carriers during international flights. With the TSA’s and other security advisors advice, President Bush ordered the rapid expansion of the Air Marshals program.

Today, they serve as the primary law enforcement entity within the TSA and are deployed on domestic and international flights. Air Marshals now have an ever expanding role in homeland security and work closely with other law enforcement agencies to accomplish their mission. Along with strengthening aircraft security, the TSA also addresses the issue of passenger identification. The first change made was to require all passengers to have a government issued ID, such as a drivers license or passport. The TSA also allowed their officers to check a passenger’s ID at any time to make sure their ID information matches their boarding pass.

While the TSA and FAA were implementing new security measures, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was also working on a way to prevent future terrorism. This new device was the No Fy List which would go on to play a large role in airline security. The No Fly list was created before 9/11, but it was very small. For example, on the day of 9/11 there were only nineteen people on the list. However, after the attacks, the responsibility for the No Fly list was transferred to the FAA and has been growing extremely rapidly ever since. The number of people on the No Fly list has more then doubled in the last year.

In 2011 there were 10,000 people prohibited from flying, today the no fly list contains nearly 21,000 names. Less then a month after being created, the TSA was faced with addressing their first failed terrorist attack. On December 1, 2001, Richard Reid tried to detonate explosives hidden within his shoes while on American Airlines Flight 63. Fortunately, Reid was unable to detonate the bomb and was subdued by fellow passengers. Reid became known as the “Shoe Bomber”, and has since been given a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

In response to Reid’s failed attack, the TSA required that it was mandatory for all passengers to remove their shoes to be checked while the passengers pass through security screening. After initially addressing the airlines weakness after 9/11, the federal government strove to create a larger agency to prevent any further terrorist attacks against the United States. On November 25, 2002, Congress passed the Homeland Security Act of 2002. This act formed the Department of Homeland Security (DOHS) whose goal is to unify the country s response to threats to the homeland. In 2003, the TSA was moved from the DOT to the DOHS.

The next series of increased security protocols came in 2004. The first new procedure required that all jackets worn by passengers had to be removed and X-rayed. Previously, only jackets that had some sort of metal on them were required to be removed. The second new protocol was that visitors or people greeting someone coming from a flight could no longer pass the security screening areas. The final new procedure was that TSA officers were now authorized to pat down passengers who had been selected for secondary screening. In 2006, another terrorist plot against an aircraft was foiled in England.

British police uncovered a terrorist plan to detonate liquid explosives on board English flights bound for the United States. The foiled attack became known as the 2006 transatlantic aircraft plot. Much like the response to the shoe bomber, the TSA enacted another series of security measures to prevent an attack using liquid explosives. The new protocol banned all liquids, gels or aerosols greater then three ounces from being brought onto an airplane. The TSA allowed people to place these materials in bottles that held less then three ounces. However, any bottles had to placed in a clear bag and were screened separately.

A few years later there was once again a failed terrorist attack. This failed plot took place on Christmas Day 2009, when Nigerian citizen Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to detonate plastic explosives hidden within his underwear while on Northwest Airlines Flight 253. Abdulmutallab is also known as the “Underwear Bomber” and was sentenced to four consecutive life sentences plus fifty years on February 16, 2012. Like previous failed attacks, the TSA responded by creating new security measures to adapt to changing threats. In 2010, full body scanners were made mandatory for every airport.

If a passenger refuses to go through a full body scanner, they must be physically patted down and searched by a TSA officer. The technology behind full body scanners is called Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) by the TSA, and has been utilized in airports since 2007. The purpose of full body scanners is to quickly and thoroughly detect any contraband on a passenger, metallic or non metallic. The TSA has two types of full body scanners, one type uses millimeter wave imaging and the other uses backscatter imaging. Millimeter wave imaging bounces electromagnetic waves of the human body to create the same generic image for all passengers.

On the other hand, backscatter imaging projects low level x-ray beams over the passenger’s body to create a reflection of their body on a monitor. The TSA claims the ATI is completely safe and that it meets national health and safety standards. TSA officials also say they have implemented strict policies to protect the privacy of the person being scanned, by placing the viewing monitors in a separate locations from the scanners. According to the TSA, there are currently more then 1,000 full body scanners being used in America.

Along with the increase in aviation security, a number of complaints have been raised by individual rights activists. Many of these advocates feel that new TSA security protocol have violated the privacy and rights of passengers. Among these advocates is Ben Wizer, the litigation director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project. According to Wizner, “We have seen abusive and intrusive searches that go far beyond any legitimate security rationale. We have seen extreme individual cases where travelers have been arrested for reasons that have nothing to do with legitimate security. Wizner also believes the post-9/11 security measures have done little to increase the protection of airports and airplanes, “I think what we have seen over the last 10 years is a massive overreaction to the last threat in a way that has violated rights, without making us much more secure. ” John Pistole, a spokesmen for the TSA, defends their security measures as being necessary, “Each day, TSA screens approximately 1. 8 million people, 12. 5 million a week, over 50 million a month, and over 625 million a year. So it’s a significant challenge to make sure that each and every person doesn’t pose a threat to aviation security. ”