House Report: U.S. Aviation Top Target for ISIS as Feds Fumble Airport Security, Employee Screening

Newark Airport after ISIS attacks Istanbul AP PhotoJulio Cortez

The House Homeland Security Committee released a study Monday, “America’s Airports: The Threat From Within” that documents serious flaws in America’s aviation infrastructure and operations at the same time terrorists, such as the army of the Islamic State, view the nation’s airports and aircraft as their No. 1 target.

“America’s aviation sector remains a crown jewel of ISIS and other terrorist groups targeting our homeland,” said Rep. Michael T. McCaul Sr. (R.-Texas), the chairman of the committee and a former federal prosecutor and senior official in the Justice Department.

“As they continue to plot against us, we must be ready to confront them at every turn,” he said.

The report describes so-called “insider threat” incidents, such as an attempt to set off a bomb at an airport, as well as firearm and drug smuggling operations and other insiders participating in plots with terrorist organizations overseas.

McCaul said he was very pleased by the report, which was produced by Rep. John M. Katco (R.-N.Y.), the chairman of the Transportation and Protective Security Subcommittee and his staff.

“I commend Rep. John Katko’s leadership on this important national security issue and specifically the subcommittee’s hard work assessing the vulnerabilities facing our aviation sector from within,” the Texan said.

The report details how inconsistencies exist across the aviation system related to how airport and air carrier security officials educate their credentialed populations on responsibly using their access and reporting suspicious activities, while conflicts between government stakeholders and the aviation industry thwart attempts to improve security.

During the two years the staff conducted the study, they found that most airports do not have full-time employee screening at secure access points. The staff also found that at these airports, existing screening procedures were spotty and for the most part were nothing more than random checks by TSA personnel or airport law enforcement officers.

Katco said the report was a vital part of his committee’s mission.

“This report is the result of two years of intense oversight efforts,” he said. “At a time when we face increased threats from homegrown radicalization and lone-wolf terrorism, we must ensure that our airport access controls are strong and that we are doing all we can to mitigate the insider threat to aviation security.”

Recommendations from the report are part of the Aviation Employee Screening and Security Enhancement Act of 2017, which Katco filed Monday to create the conditions by which the Transportation Security Adminstration, the airports, and the aviation companies can work together to close up vulnerabilities highlighted by the subcommittee, he said.

“Our nation’s aviation system is interconnected, and we are only as secure as our least secure airport,” the Upstate New York congressman said.

Find the 21-page report, “America’s Airports: The Threat From Within” here.


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