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Kerry: GAO probed security at Logan

By Brian C. Mooney and Matthew Brelis, Globe Staff, 9/15/2001

The US General Accounting Office conducted an undercover investigation of airport security measures after Senator John F. Kerry provided a tape of a Boston television station report on lapses earlier this year at Logan International Airport, Kerry said.

''They began an undercover investigation in response, specifically, to our inquiry,'' Kerry told reporters at the State House.

Kerry said he did not know the outcome of the probe.

His press secretary, Kelley Benander, said the GAO told the senator's office about the investigation in June.

The GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, however, yesterday issued a statement saying that ''we are not presently conducting any airport screening investigations'' and said it would provide no further information than appears on its Web site.

The GAO's most recent report to Congress was issued Aug. 31, 11 days before the terrorist suicide hijackings at Logan, Dulles, and Newark airports. It involved a survey of two airports - Logan was not one - and 41 federal office buildings. The report found that nearly all the facilities had taken steps to upgrade security after GAO undercover agents in April and May 2000 were ''100 percent successful in penetrating ... targeted sites'' with bogus credentials or badges.

GAO spokesman Jeff Nelligan would not elaborate on the statement or say whether the GAO had ever conducted a similar probe of Logan.

Robert H. Hast, head of GAO's office of special investigations, said, ''At OSI, we do not comment on any ongoing investigations.''

Kerry's actions earlier this year were in response to a WFXT-Fox 25 news report on security at Logan and TF Green Airport in Rhode Island and a complaint from Brian F. Sullivan of Plymouth, a retired Federal Aviation Administration special agent, who had seen the news report. In a May 7 letter to Kerry, Sullivan cited widespread security problems and wrote: ''Think what the result would be of a coordinated attack which took down several domestic flights on the same day. The problem is that with our current screening system, that is more than possible.''

Gate security is the responsibility of the airlines, and the FAA is completing plans for a new ''threat image projection system,'' which, using computer software, would identify weapon-like objects and record gate security guard responses to them. The theory behind the system is that it would force airlines to invest more in training.

Frank Phillips of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.

This story ran on page A14 of the Boston Globe on 9/15/2001.
© Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company.

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