Members of Congress are demanding answers from the Transportation and Security Administration after an exclusive an NBC 5 investigation revealed hundreds of airport security badges, known as Secure Identification Display Area (SIDA) badges, are missing.
NBC 5 Investigates discovered that in about two years at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, more than 1,400 badges were lost or stolen.
InvestigativeHundreds of Airport Security Badges Missing
The Transportation Security Administration has declined to provide numbers from other airports across the country saying the information is considered security sensitive.
“It’s very concerning. And it's something that we need to get to the bottom of and that we need some accountability on,” said Sen. John Thune, who chairs the senate’s transportation committee.
The NBC 5 report prompted Thune and three other senators, both Republican and Democrats, to send a letter to acting TSA Administrator Melvin Carraway, asking him to provide “the percentage of SIDA badges unaccounted for in each of the last five years at each airport where TSA conducts or oversees security operations.”
“We've got 400 airports in this country with secure areas and if these types of incidents have occurred at these other airports we've got a problem on our hands that needs to be addressed,” said Thune.
Airport IDs are deactivated when they’re reported missing and most airports require employees to enter a pin number or use a hand scanner before their badge will open a secure door.
Because of those security measures, Atlanta’s airport said missing badges don’t pose a significant threat.
Still, some security experts fear bad guys wearing stolen IDs could sneak in an open perimeter gate or hop a fence and then blend in on the tarmac.
“You, as an individual, have a personal responsibility to take care of and ensure that the security of that badge is maintained,” said Larry Wansley, an aviation security expert.
Now members of Congress want to make sure the TSA is doing everything possible to make sure missing badges don’t pose a threat to passengers.
“We haven't gotten a response from them yet. We hope that will happen and happen soon. But if we don't get a response we're going to be pressing very hard,” said Thune.
NBC 5 Investigates reached out to the TSA Thursday. A spokesman said the agency will respond directly to the senators who wrote the letter.
In a hearing this week on Capitol Hill, Acting TSA Administrator Carraway reiterated there are safeguards in place to prevent someone from getting in with a stolen badge. But he said that still does not excuse the missing IDs -- and the TSA will hold airports accountable if the airport can't justify or explain why badges are missing.
The agency has also previously said it is conducting a nationwide review of security at employee entrances, looking at ways to make them even more secure.
Read the Senate committee's letter to the TSA below: