Friday, January 8, 2010

Incident on Flight 253 and TSA’s Role in International Security

Over the holidays, I was home with the family in southern Ohio watching the news of the incident on Christmas Day unfold amidst a surreal smattering of garland and wrapping paper. As you can imagine, I got lots of questions from friends and family (including my crazy uncle) back home, as well as right here on the blog, and I'll be covering a few of those topics now that I'm back in the blog team cockpit.

One of the biggest misperceptions I found was that people thought that TSA conducts screening in Amsterdam and in other places around the world. Not so. We only screen passengers at airports in the United States and U.S. Territories. Each country has their own screening workforce - some are government, some are private sector, some are even military.

While each country has sovereignty over their aviation systems and controls the level of security measures at their airports, over 190 countries worldwide—including the United States—use the International Civil Aviation Organization's (ICAO) standards and recommended practices for civil aviation security as their baseline. In the United States, TSA has built even further on these standards with security initiatives like Behavior Detection Officers and Advanced Imaging Technology. The United States also sets additional security standards on top of ICAO's for U.S.-bound flights coming into or through the United States from international airports. If those standards aren't met, the U.S. can deny entry to a specific flight, airline, or flights from a specific airport.

On Dec. 25, TSA took swift action immediately following the incident to strengthen those standards even further at airports across the country and around the world—enhancing screening for individuals flying to the United States and deploying additional airport law enforcement, air marshals and explosives detection canine teams, among other security measures. Because effective aviation security must begin beyond our borders, and as a result of extraordinary cooperation from our global aviation partners, TSA is mandating that every individual flying into the U.S. from anywhere in the world traveling from or through nations that are state sponsors of terrorism or other countries of interest will be required to go through enhanced screening. TSA’s new directive also increases the use of enhanced screening technologies and mandates threat-based and random screening for passengers on U.S. bound international flights. This means the majority of ALL international travelers will go through enhanced screening under this new security directive.

Moving forward, we will continue to work with our airline and international partners to ensure they meet both international and TSA security standards. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano yesterday outlined five recommendations—part of her report to the President on aviation screening, technology and procedures—for actions to protect air travel from terrorism. These include a wide range of enhancements, from modified criteria and process used to create terrorist watch lists to partnering with the Department of Energy to develop better technologies to deploying far more advanced imaging technology and Federal Air Marshals throughout the aviation system. It also includes continued work with international partners to strengthen international security measures and standards for aviation security. Secretary Napolitano announced she will travel to Spain later this month to meet with her international counterparts in the first of a series of global meetings intended to bring about broad consensus on new international aviation security standards and procedures. We are looking to enhance global aviation security standards, increase information collection and sharing and improve and deploy more detection technology.

So, while we have our Transportation Security Officers screening passengers and bags in the United States, we are also committed to strengthening coordination with international partners to implement stronger and more effective measures to protect U.S.-bound flights, with a goal of keeping people safe when they fly.


Blogger Bob

TSA Blog Team