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CNN Exclusive: TSA considers ending security screenings at small airports

CNN's Rene Marsh reports.

Posted: Aug 2, 2018 2:53 PM
Updated: Aug 2, 2018 3:09 PM

If the Transportation Safety Administration eliminates security checkpoints at small airports, like the one Bryant Garrett runs in Redding, California, he worries nobody will be checking the bags and pockets of the hundreds of passengers who board planes there every week bound for San Francisco.

"Who would it be?" asked Garrett, the manager of Redding Municipal Airport, who had heard about the proposal, first reported by CNN on Wednesday.

"I, as the airport, don't want to take on either the liability nor the cost, and I'm quite certain the airlines don't want to take that on. So if TSA backs out, there's a void, and I don't know who would fill it."

Internal documents dated June and July obtained by CNN show a TSA working group is considering ending screening at more than 150 small- and medium-sized airports, which, like Redding, have commercial planes with fewer than 60 people per flight. Passengers connecting to other flights at larger hubs would go through screening before boarding their next flights, according to the documents.

TSA projections called for savings of $115 million annually and a "small (non-zero) undesirable increase in risk." An agency spokesman said the idea "is not a new issue" and the ending of screening is allowed under "the regulations which established TSA."

Redding's airport has six arriving and departing flights daily, each carrying about 50 passengers. Besides terrorism, Garrett said he was concerned with the logistics of screening passengers before their connecting flights, and he wondered who would pay for the armed security guard stationed at the airport; currently it's TSA.

Lawmakers upset

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wrote in a letter to TSA that it is "crucial we continue to maintain one level of security and safety across our nation's airports."

"TSA documents proposing to scrap critical passenger security screenings, without so much as a metal detector in place in some airports, would effectively clear the runway for potential terror attacks," the New York Democrat wrote. "It simply boggles the mind to even think that the TSA has plans like this on paper in the first place."

Sen. Ed Markey wrote in a letter to TSA on Thursday he is "deeply troubled by this proposal." The Massachusetts Democrat noted that on September 11, 2001, terrorists boarded the two airplanes that felled the World Trade Center in Boston.

"We vowed to never repeat the mistakes of the past, which is why I urge you to reconsider any proposal that could jeopardize our aviation security," Markey wrote.

Rep. Bennie Thompson, the top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, noted that the government's airport security fees, which are automatically added to commercial airline tickets, are not earmarked for TSA.

"If the administration is truly concerned with TSA's budget, it should urge Congress to ensure 100 percent of passenger security fees go to TSA so it can provide the level of security that terrorist threats necessitate," he said.

Thompson, who is from Mississippi, also noted the proposal could be bad for airports "especially in rural America."

Flight attendants, passengers upset

A major union of flight attendants vowed to "fight any measure to weaken aviation security."

"We are absolutely against removing TSA from any airport, no matter how small or large," the Association of Flight Attendants said in a statement. "TSA, together with other aviation workers, keep our skies safe. We promised to never forget after September 11."

At the Redding airport baggage claim, Allena Jones said her children fly to Los Angeles every summer.

"My children fly out of here every summer," Jones said. "If there is no security here for their protection, they would not fly out of this airport."

Another passenger, Pam Roberts, called the proposal "a bad idea," but said it would not deter her from flying.

"Oh, I probably would," she said with a laugh. "I'm an adventurous type."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 38567

Reported Deaths: 1290
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds310258
DeSoto205020
Madison156039
Jones125450
Harrison123116
Rankin117320
Forrest107143
Neshoba105077
Lauderdale97581
Scott83715
Jackson80919
Washington78214
Copiah69016
Leake65120
Lee64023
Grenada63412
Oktibbeha63228
Lamar6127
Warren61222
Holmes60842
Wayne57519
Yazoo5747
Leflore56956
Lowndes55317
Lincoln54136
Pike52821
Lafayette5274
Sunflower5269
Monroe47239
Panola4696
Covington4665
Simpson4613
Bolivar42818
Tate41813
Attala39024
Pontotoc3906
Adams38820
Newton37910
Marion35612
Claiborne31811
Pearl River31732
Marshall3074
Winston30513
Chickasaw30419
Jasper2956
Walthall2899
Noxubee2819
Clay26811
Smith26112
Union25811
Coahoma2376
Clarke23425
Lawrence2182
Yalobusha2089
Tallahatchie2064
Montgomery1903
Carroll18911
Kemper18414
Humphreys17810
Calhoun1765
Hancock15813
Itawamba1528
Tippah15111
Jefferson1353
Webster13511
George1313
Jefferson Davis1294
Prentiss1294
Tunica1273
Amite1183
Greene11810
Alcorn1132
Tishomingo1111
Quitman1041
Wilkinson1049
Perry954
Stone802
Choctaw764
Franklin582
Sharkey520
Benton490
Issaquena111
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 58225

Reported Deaths: 1183
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson7186174
Mobile5206147
Montgomery4690114
Tuscaloosa277754
Madison27299
Marshall209012
Shelby182026
Lee171637
Morgan14296
Baldwin139611
Walker112635
DeKalb11187
Etowah110414
Elmore110124
Dallas102810
Franklin96016
Unassigned81428
Russell7340
Autauga73317
Chambers69332
Limestone6914
Cullman6896
Houston6587
Butler65631
St. Clair6463
Tallapoosa64669
Lauderdale6337
Colbert5826
Calhoun5776
Escambia5228
Lowndes49723
Pike4915
Jackson4722
Coffee4534
Covington43913
Talladega4337
Dale4142
Barbour4133
Bullock38010
Hale36723
Marengo36411
Chilton3563
Blount3441
Marion33214
Clarke3296
Wilcox3258
Winston3157
Sumter30413
Pickens2806
Randolph27910
Monroe2773
Perry2632
Conecuh2478
Bibb2322
Macon2279
Choctaw22112
Greene2019
Henry1613
Washington1588
Lawrence1510
Crenshaw1403
Cherokee1357
Geneva1060
Lamar951
Clay922
Fayette902
Coosa691
Cleburne531
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