Whitecaps

Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Name:
Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.


Thursday, December 16, 2004

Is the Airport Safe?

The Thursday, December 16, 2004, edition of The Spokesman-Review carried a Business page story headlined "Three airport security officers quit." The story by John Stucke is linked here.

My first reaction was, "Why is this story on the Business page?" This is less a story about business than about public safety. It is a significant story. It is very important to note that the three federal employees, all supervisors, were not reassigned; they resigned. I suspect a more accurate characterization of their departure would have been to say they were allowed to resign.

Well, this is a personnel matter, so the public isn't really entitled to know the real reasons for their resignations, right?

Wrong.

We are forced to fund and rely on the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). When the top three TSA supervisors at the airport resign simultaneously for "personal reasons", we are entitled to more information so we can better determine if TSA in Spokane is worthy of our trust and confidence, not to mention our dollars. Did the "personal reasons" in any way compromise the public's safety at Spokane International Airport? TSA would say no, but how can we be sure?

This is not the first time Spokane International Airport's security reputation has been sullied.

On July 6, 2002, less than a year after 9-11, the Spokesman Review published a story based on some photos taken by a passenger in the airport's main terminal lobby. The article included one of the photos showing an airport police officer playing solitaire on one of the computers in the airport police command, control, communications, and security center. The airport no doubt breathed a sigh of relief when the article focused on the officer's individual conduct rather than on the much larger and more timely security issues her conduct and the photos revealed.

The Spokane news media were equally willing to let the story drop without asking some very relevant followup questions and reporting the answers.
1. At a time when airports are so concerned about security, why is the command, control, communications, and security center for the airport's police in full public view where its operation could be easily seen by someone targetting the airport? Why is the airport police command center even accessible to the public in the main terminal rather than tucked safely away in a remote and defensible section of the airport?
2. Why was a citizen looking through the window into the police command center able to see and photograph the security camera video monitors with their labels and thereby discern what areas of the airport were under video surveillance?
3. Why did the police officer feel comfortable playing computerized solitaire in full view of the public? Did she did not fear detection by her shift supervisor because playing games on the office computer was permitted by the police supervisors?
If we have concerns about the adequacy of security and the competence of the federal security personnel and airport police at Spokane International Airport, we need to communicate them to our elected state and federal representatives. We rely on them to police the police, a task they should be eager to undertake since they, too, fly in and out of Spokane International Airport.

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