Fliers Say Airports' Security Has Holes

Article excerpt

Byline: Daniel F. Drummond

Dozens of people have boarded flights with corkscrews, knives and other prohibited items at Washington Dulles International and Ronald Reagan Washington National airports, according to passengers and federal officials.

Numerous passengers interviewed by The Washington Times said they have been able to pass through security checkpoints at Reagan and Dulles airports with forbidden items in their carry-on luggage. Those items later were confiscated or destroyed at other airports across the country. All of the passengers interviewed requested anonymity.

In one case, a man traveling to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on a Delta flight on Oct. 24 was able to pass through a security checkpoint at Reagan Airport with a money clip that had a nail file and 2-inch knife attached to it. Both items are prohibited under Federal Aviation Administration rules. Security at Reagan Airport is maintained by Atlanta-based Argenbright Security Inc.

On his return trip to Washington on Oct. 28, a Globe Security Inc. security guard at Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport told the man that "the money clip would either be confiscated or the knife and file would be taken off."

The man elected to have the knife and file removed from the silver money clip, but he said the experience left him wondering about security at Reagan Airport.

"National is supposed to be the gold standard," the man said.

During a two-week period, The Times also observed security guards at Reagan Airport and Dulles waving passengers through without thoroughly checking purses and other carry-on bags. At Dulles, metal detectors would go off routinely, but security personnel would not ask the person to go back through the checkpoint.

Security services at Dulles - which is where American Airlines Flight 77 originated before crashing into the Pentagon on September 11 - also are provided by Argenbright. The company has been fined several times for federal security violations, including hiring criminals and illegal foreign workers.

Over the past weekend, seven of its employees, including a supervisor, who work at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, were fired for allowing a man carrying several knives and a stun-gun to pass through security.

And on Oct. 13, federal agents arrested a man with a knife who was able to pass through security at one of two checkpoints at Dulles.

During a recent spot check of security at Dulles, the Department of Transportation Inspector General's office also found that seven out of 20 screeners at Dulles were not able to pass a basic skills test. More than 80 percent of the security personnel at Dulles are not American citizens, which is disturbing because most of the workers there speak broken English, making it hard for them to communicate with passengers. …