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SFO security concerns raised after 9/11

December 28, 2010 7:41:45 PM PST
The pilot who blew the whistle on lax airport security blasted his critics on Tuesday. Chris Liu posted cell phone video on YouTube last month criticizing security measures at San Francisco International Airport.

TSA officials went to Liu's home and confiscated the handgun he carried as part of the Federal Flight Deck Officers program.

Liu held the news conference in Sacramento. He says his critics are naive and ignoring a serious threat to the flying public.

"This was never about being famous for me. This was about aviation security. It's a serious issue at the airport and I just wanted to address it," says Liu.

Liu argues that ground crews are not screened by metal detectors or TSA personnel the same way as travelers or airlines employees. SFO says the video presents false and misleading information on the airport's security program.

While the pilot's video has gotten national attention, it has renewed a security controversy that's not really new at all. The video exposes a potential weakness in the security system at SFO that's been talked about for years.

Questions over how best to screen thousands of workers entering and leaving secure areas at SFO have been raised many times in the past. ABC7 began reporting on efforts to improve the system well before 9/11and while a lot has been done to increase security in recent years it evidently hasn't put to rest for the concerned.

If you have taking a flight lately, at security you face ID checks, metal detectors, body scans and sometimes bag searches. It can be rigorous.

"There are 1,400 cameras that are focused on various points of interest within the terminal complex at San Francisco Airport," says ABC7 aviation consultant Ron Wilson.

Cameras watch your ever move, but some claim airport workers don't go through the same screening -- a concern that isn't new.

ABC7 reported eight years ago, just months after 9/11, that pilots and others were complaining that airport workers weren't going through the same screening as passengers. The concern then is the same concern today, that some airport workers are just not subject to pat downs and bag searches unless by a random TSA check.

"Employees don't have to go through body scans and pat downs. But they do have to go through the card system, which they are issued by the airport, they do have to go through a biometric system," says Wilson.

Passenger Morgan Lambert from France says it is a concern for her.

"If an employee can get to the airfield like that, I don't know, then maybe he could plan on doing something wrong like planning an accident or terrorism," says Lambert.

SFO claims with those 1,400 cameras in the terminal, high tech smart technology, and biometric access, it's one of the most secure airports in the nation.

As for its 20,000 plus workers, airport officials point out they are put through tough security and background checks to get their security clearances. As well as random screening by TSA teams as they enter and leave secure areas. But for years now pilots like Chris Lui have raised their concerns asking if all that is enough.

"There is no type of security that's going to be 100 percent. If you're a criminal and you're intent on committing a criminal act or terrorist act or something, you'll probably find a way to do it," says Wilson.

SFO director John Martin would not go on camera on Tuesday to discuss this issue. Airport officials note that the SFO security program is made up of multiple layers -- a majority of which passengers never see. They added that their security program is always under review.


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