U.S. Department of Homeland Security Inspector General John Roth says his office is now reviewing the security surrounding employee ID badges at two dozen large airports.
That review began after an NBC 5 investigation revealed more than 1,400 airport IDs, known as SIDA badges, were lost or stolen over the course of about two years at the nation's busiest airport, Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
NBC 5 Investigates also found some lost or stolen badges at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and at San Diego International Airport were not immediately deactivated because airport employers did not immediately notify airport police.
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In remarks prepared for the U.S. House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee this week, Roth said his office is now, "…testing selected internal controls airport operators have in place to mitigate the potential risks of unaccounted for, lost, or stolen SIDA badges."
The report said the Inspector General has focused on 24 of the largest airports in the U.S. and plans to issue a report with findings later this year.
Missing SIDA badges raise concerns in part because airport employees can use them to bypass regular security screening and enter secure portions of the airport through special employee doors. At many airports those doors also require workers to enter a PIN or scan their hand to enter.
But some security officials fear bad guys with stolen IDs could sneak in an open perimeter gate or hop a fence. And someone wearing an ID may be less likely to stand out.
In testimony before the House oversight committee, a TSA official said that agency's own review has so far found only 23 airports out of about 450 have been forced to re-issue ID badges because some portion of employees exceeded the TSA's allowable threshold for missing IDs. Security sources tell NBC 5 that threshold is 5 percent, meaning if more than 5 percent are unaccounted for, the airport has to re-badge its workers.
Sources have said D/FW Airport was not among those that reached that level.
A new bill under consideration in the U.S. Senate would lower the threshold to 3 percent at the nation's largest airports. That bill specifically cites NBC 5 Investigates' reporting on the issue among its findings.