TSA Making Changes After NBC 5 Investigates Report Found Hundreds of Missing Airport IDs

Former airline security chief believes the missing badges present serious concerns

The Transportation Security Administration is making changes and addressing problems highlighted in an NBC 5 investigation that found hundreds of airport security badges, known as Secure Identification Display Area (SIDA) badges, are unaccounted for across the country.

Earlier this year, NBC 5 Investigates discovered that in about two years at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, more than 1,400 badges were lost or stolen.

"You're giving people the keys to your house. So if I'm going to give an airport ID badge to someone, I've given them the keys to my house because an airport ID badge has the ability to bypass many of the layers of security that are in place to protect our system," said Jeff Price, aviation security expert and author of Practical Aviation Security.

At most airports, workers have badges that let them bypass security through side doors, allowing them to carry things into the airport unchecked.

Larry Wansley, former director of security for American Airlines, believes the missing badges present serious concerns for security officials and are something terrorists would like to have possession of in order to compromise security.

Police reports from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and San Diego's airport show sometimes lost and stolen badges are not reported missing for days or even months, so they aren't immediately deactivated.

Now TSA is tightening control.

In a statement, the agency says, "We are increasing efforts to ensure compliance by airports as well as individuals and employers of individuals issued airport IDs."

"I would expect more inspections, more audits coming from TSA to airport badging offices in the future," said Price.

TSA wants to make sure airports are following rules that require airports to reissue all ID badges if more than 5 percent of their IDs go missing.

A security source with a major airline told NBC 5 Investigates Thursday some airports were apparently not following the rules the way TSA intended.

Meanwhile, TSA also plans to step up random screenings at employee doors.

"There's been some studies that show random screenings can be just as effective as screening everybody," said Price.

In February, the NBC 5 investigation prompted Sen. John Thune, who chairs the senate’s transportation committee, and three other senators 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."

TSA has previously declined to provide the number of badges missing nationwide to NBC 5 Investigates, saying it's security sensitive information.

At most airports, including DFW Airport, workers also have to enter a PIN code or put their hand on a scanner along with their badge to gain access, but that's not the case at all airports across the country.

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