Sun, Dec 26, 2010 - Page 7 News List

TSA probes pilot critical of airport security in the US

AP, SAN FRANCISCO

US federal authorities are investigating a pilot who posted videos on YouTube that were critical of security at San Francisco International Airport (SFO), the pilot’s attorney said on Friday.

Don Werno of the law firm Werno and Associates said the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is looking into whether his client revealed sensitive information.

The pilot remains employed with a major airline, but he has withdrawn from a program that trains flight crew to help prevent hijackings after authorities confiscated his federally issued firearm, Werno said. He declined to release the pilot’s name, citing concerns about the man’s job.

The TSA wouldn’t answer questions but said in a statement it is responding to the situation and is confident in the security at San Francisco International Airport.

“As to access control at SFO, TSA is confident in the tools the airport has implemented and reminds passengers there are security measures in place that are both seen and unseen,” the statement said.

The pilot posted several videos on YouTube late last month or early this month that showed ground crew members swiping security cards and entering secure areas without undergoing any screening.

He notes in the footage that pilots undergo intense screening, but then have access to axe-like weapons that are stored in the cockpit in case of emergencies.

The sixth and final video was of US federal air marshals and sheriff’s deputies who came to the pilot’s home earlier this month to seize his federally issued firearm. The pilot had been allowed to carry the weapon on board as part of a program after Sept. 11, 2001, that trains certain flight crew to serve as “federal flight deck officers” to prevent hijackings.

Werno said his client was upset about what he feels is lax security for ground crew, including baggage handlers and caterers, working at SFO while flight crews and passengers are subject to intense screening.

“The airport should be a security zone where everything that comes into the airport perimeter is checked,” he said.

The pilot removed the videos from YouTube after the TSA objected.

The pilot, a 50-year-old California native, has worked for a major airline for the past 10 years and continues to fly, according to Werno. He has been advised by his airline not to disclose his identity.

In its statement, the TSA said it “responded and took action in this situation because the pilot in question was a FFDO [federal flight deck officer].”

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