By Melanie Zanona – The Hill
The House easily passed legislation on Tuesday to beef up the screening of airport employees and target other insider threats in the aviation sector.
Every single lawmaker voted to approve the bill, which would enhance vetting requirements for workers, overhaul how airports issue security credentials and improve the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) screening operations.
The measure, backed by Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), would also require a study on the cost and feasibility of conducting full employee screening at domestic airports.
Earlier this year, a House Homeland Security Committee report identified a number of potential security gaps in the employee screening process at airports around the country.
“There remain serious vulnerabilities and gaps in employee screening at airports nationwide,” said Katko, who chairs the Homeland Security subcommittee on transportation security.
“We cannot allow these lapses in security to continue placing the traveling public at risk. After a number of insider threat-related attacks at airport overseas, along with plots here in the United States, it is essential that we act on this legislation.”
The bill’s passage comes after a dozen airport and TSA employees were arrested for their alleged involvement in a massive cocaine smuggling operation in Puerto Rico earlier this year.
The defendants are accused of helping smuggle approximately 20 tons of cocaine through Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport over the course of 18 years, from 1998 to 2016.
The operation allegedly involved employees smuggling suitcases through TSA checkpoints and other secure areas at the airport and onto flights.
“Frighteningly, we have seen multiple examples of aviation workers with access to secure areas of airports being involved in serious criminal activities, including terror plotting, after being radicalized,” Katko said.