Hawaii airport screeners face firing after breach

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 10, 2011 4:48 PM
Hawaii airport screeners face firing after breach

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Three dozen baggage screeners at Honolulu International Airport face being fired and another dozen face discipline for security lapses, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration said on Friday.

The actions come after complaints late last year that scores of bags that passengers checked at the airport were loaded onto planes without being properly screened for explosives, a severe security breach at a time when al Qaeda militants have sought to attack the U.S. aviation system.

"TSA holds its workforce to the highest ethical standards and we will not tolerate employees who in any way compromise the security of the traveling public," TSA Administrator John Pistole said in a statement.

TSA proposed removing the Honolulu airport's federal security director as well as his deputy. Those who received removal letters are put on administrative leave and have an opportunity to challenge it, according to TSA.

The agency has deployed additional screeners and management level staff to the Honolulu airport until permanent replacements can be hired.

After complaints to TSA, investigators discovered that some checked baggage during one shift at one location during the last few months of 2010 were allowed onto flights without being properly screened.

Militants tied to Al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen have tried to send bombs aboard planes bound for the United States via Europe. A Nigerian man has been accused of trying to detonate a bomb hidden in his underwear on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit in 2009. That bomb failed to ignite fully.

Authorities last year also intercepted in Europe two bombs hidden in printer ink cartridges that were bound for the United States via commercial express delivery companies.

(Reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky, editing by Vicki Allen)