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Airport security chat

On Wednesday, Sept. 4, Maj. Thomas Robbins, the interim security director at Logan International Airport, discussed changes that have been made in air safety in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Welcome to the chat about security at Logan Airport with Maj. Thomas Robbins, the interim security director at Logan.
We are currently waiting for Maj. Robbins. Please send your questions in while we wait.
Folks, we just got a call from Maj. Robbins -- he is running late. He will be here to chat at 2:30, so please be patient.
Thomas Robbins
Hello. I'm Maj. Robbins. I'm in charge of security at Logan Airport, and I'm also the commanding officer of the state police force assigned at Logan Airport.
Obviously, we have Maj. Robbins in. And I am going to start off by asking about this NY Daily News report. Can you elaborate on anything that was in the report, or maybe put it in perspective for us.
Thomas Robbins
I want to give people an overall understanding of how security works and how you proceed through a security checkpoint, to help explain and highlight some issues in the report. The security checkpoints are in the process of being manned by federal security administration or TSA employees ...
Thomas Robbins
... And Logan has checkpoints that are staffed exclusively by TSA screeners. We are working to meet the deadline which is Nov. to be fully staffed with TSA screeners. The TSA currently contracts with security companies not staffed with TSA screeners. So we have a mixed team. As we come online, with the federalization of the checkpoints, I think you'll see a dramatic shift in the overall process as you make your way through a chekpoint.
Thomas Robbins
... What happened in the Daily News report, is that someone, a reporter testing the chekpoint, at several different airports, hid unauthorized items and proceeded throught the checkpoint. And obviously made it through with some of those items. The two items that I'm aware of are a corkscrew and a razor blade. And I've heard reference that they may have got through with a can of pepper spray at another airport.
Thomas Robbins
The federal security director for Logan Airport, George Nacarra, addressed this specific issue at this morning's security briefing at Logan Airport. He is aware of the situation, has discussed it with his security personel, his screeners, and they are doing everything they can to prohibit these items from processing through checkpoints.
Do you think that attempts by reporters to foil airport security are helpful? If not, is there an alternative mechanism which you would prefer?
Thomas Robbins
I don't think that attempts to foil security are helpful. And the main reason is that we have no way to verify what items went through, how they got processed through, what specific checkpoint an employee is working at; so there really is no way to validate the security violation, and more importantly to take immediate corrective action. And actions such as these cause negative inferences which may not be accurate regarding security.
Let me say one thing, Maj. Robbins said that the Daily News has provided no more information about the breaches beyond what has already been published.
Is Logan Airport more secure today than it was on Sept. 11?
Thomas Robbins
Absolutely. We have done a number of things over the past year to increase security awareness and to put into place manpower, and technological improvements that have brought us significantly along in the path to security since last year.
With the recent media reports of reporter's smuggling weapons onto planes, it's obvious there's more work to be done- how do we get to a point where this won't happen? More training?
Thomas Robbins
There's a lot of things we're looking at to continue improving security at Logan Airport? And I mentioned the two most important: Manpower and technology. As some of you may be aware, we have been chosen as a pilot airport for technology testing. And since 911, we have been testing several technologies, some of which are facial recognition, passport verification, pocket computers for law enforcement, among others. We have also developed an airport antiterrorist unit which consists of specially trained members of the state police to react to, and more importantly, prevent terrorists incidents. And lastly, we are in the process of training in behavioral pattern recognition, which will allow our officers and airport workers to detect possible terrorists with evil intent through exhibited behaviors as they pass through the airport.
If security has improved since Sept. 11, and every security chief in the country is saying it has, then why do these incidents continue to happen?
Thomas Robbins
The specific incidents regarding prohibited items through the checkpoints are a result of two things. Technology not being to the point of looking into a person's item, carry-on item or clothing, and identifying a specific item. We're just not there yet in terms of technology. So when an item is x-rayed, it calls for a screener to look at that x-ray and make a determination as to what they're seeing, in terms of the threat. Once that's done, the piece of clothing or baggage will be further searched, and the item located. But until such time, as technology can definitively locate every possible item, including corkscrews and razor blades, in every instance, there will be these occurrances ...
Thomas Robbins
... On the issue of screeners, locating these items as passengers pass through checkpoints, the TSA, as you know, is involved in in-depth hiring and training proceedures and methods to reduce and possibly eliminate the instances of these items passing through. In addition, we have measures in place that will provide for additional security in the event one of the items passes through. For example, there are federal air marshalls on many flights. They are armed and well-trained to respond to incidents in the cabin. The TSA has also reinforced and severedly restriced access to the cockpit. These and many other security measures take into account many of the concerns that we as security professionals are aware of when passengers are progressing through a checkpoint and onto the aircraft.
How is the implementation of the federal security screener program going at Logan?
Thomas Robbins
A deadline has been established to fully federalize the screeners at the nation's airports. That deadline is Nov. 19. The federal security director at Logan, George Naccara, has established job fairs, advertised for positions and continues to test applicants and hire screeners for employment at Logan Airport. We currently have checkpoints at Logan Airport that are fully federalized, and I can't speak to the deadline in terms of the hiring. I do know that the process is ongoing.
I think that just the increased presence of the police alone creates a more secure environement. The problem is that the people who are capable of Sept. 11 - like events are not deterred by police presence alone.
Thomas Robbins
I agree that police pressence alone will not deter a terrorist act. That is why, as I previously mentioned, we have developed technological advances, an anti-terrorist unit that has received specialized training, and other security methods that go well beyond mere police pressence. We have also established road blocks that allow us to stop vehicles and if appropriate, question the operator and search for harmful devices. When used in conjunction with other proactive police measures, such as behavioral pattern recognition, it allows us to provide a much safer airport security environment.
What can you say to people to make them feel safe in the airport and to hep them help you with Security?
Thomas Robbins
What I can say about airport travel at Logan Airport is that we are doing everything we possibly can do to ensure the safety of the passengers. Logan Airport is like any other community in Massachusetts, and citizens travelling through the airport community can help with security by reporting any unusual incidents or situations that they become aware of to the state police. We rely statewide on our citizens to provide this kind of information and it is no different at Logan Airport.
How often do you run tests of your own security? Are they similar to the approach taken by the Daily News reporters?
Thomas Robbins
We do test the security checkpoints specifically to see how the technology and screeners are performing by attempting to get prohibited items through. I don't want to say how often we test, or specifically how the test are conducted, but the advantage to this testing is obvious. It provides immediate feedback to the screeners and their supervisors as to what items were missed and why they were missed, and immediate remedial action is taken. This specific issue is within the province of the TSA, and they continue the training and the testing of the screening testpoints to make sure that we improve performance at all checkpoints.
Why is there a port authority police department and state police? Wouldn't make sence to have one agency in charge of law enforcement to have one department as other states have at their ports and airports?
Thomas Robbins
There are many levels of security in place at Logan Airport. And many things continue to be done on a daily basis to improve overall security. The federal government, the airlines and MassPort work together on a daily basis to improve the security at Logan Airport. The TSA is the federal agency tasked with overall security for our nation's airports. We work with the TSA to provide law enforcement officers and other security personel and measures to meet the federal requirements. It is a team effort, and at Logan Airport we have daily security briefings, seven days a week, with all of the security agencies to ensure that we are doing everything possible for security.
Folks, we have to wrap this up. Thank you Major Robbins.
This chat is over folks. Sorry we didn't get to everybody's questions. Hopefully we can get Maj. Robbins in again in the future.
3 Chatters, 3 Lurkers

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