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.

Cases: 513622

Reported Deaths: 10264
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34892556
DeSoto33234432
Hinds32638641
Jackson24854389
Rankin22507403
Lee16337242
Madison14922283
Jones14113247
Forrest13766259
Lauderdale12270324
Lowndes11305193
Lamar10659140
Pearl River9719244
Lafayette8846143
Hancock7836132
Washington7550169
Oktibbeha7210138
Monroe7010179
Pontotoc6990109
Warren6863178
Panola6759134
Neshoba6730210
Marshall6678141
Bolivar6445151
Union638297
Pike5928156
Alcorn5879107
Lincoln5530136
George510180
Prentiss503884
Tippah491482
Itawamba4844107
Scott477899
Adams4768125
Tate4756116
Leflore4729144
Copiah456495
Yazoo456491
Simpson4546117
Wayne443072
Covington433695
Sunflower4299106
Marion4277112
Coahoma4237109
Leake413990
Newton395781
Tishomingo383593
Grenada3777109
Stone365866
Jasper340666
Attala338290
Winston317892
Chickasaw315467
Clay312278
Clarke301195
Calhoun285049
Holmes271889
Smith269052
Yalobusha243947
Tallahatchie231553
Greene224749
Walthall221666
Lawrence218740
Perry213456
Amite209857
Webster205348
Noxubee188742
Montgomery181657
Carroll174541
Jefferson Davis173643
Tunica163239
Benton152939
Kemper145041
Choctaw136727
Claiborne134338
Humphreys131239
Franklin125529
Quitman107628
Wilkinson105939
Jefferson96934
Sharkey65221
Issaquena1957
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 845284

Reported Deaths: 16116
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1161552006
Mobile742111380
Madison53307732
Shelby38338368
Baldwin38085589
Tuscaloosa36022641
Montgomery34492781
Lee25562263
Calhoun22586518
Morgan22459406
Etowah20018517
Marshall18782316
Houston17731425
St. Clair16884358
Limestone16148218
Cullman16054303
Elmore15904294
Lauderdale14989306
Talladega14196299
DeKalb12972269
Walker12030380
Blount10717192
Autauga10517157
Jackson10162194
Coffee9417192
Colbert9342208
Dale9020191
Tallapoosa7256201
Russell708165
Chilton7018170
Escambia6957143
Covington6933195
Franklin6342108
Chambers5784142
Marion5406130
Dallas5285209
Pike5119109
Clarke484986
Lawrence4826129
Winston4780110
Geneva4642136
Bibb434094
Barbour369580
Butler3435100
Marengo342493
Monroe337266
Randolph334867
Pickens333188
Fayette330385
Henry320666
Hale318389
Cherokee317863
Crenshaw260477
Washington257052
Cleburne254460
Lamar251453
Clay250869
Macon244864
Conecuh192862
Coosa185047
Lowndes178168
Wilcox177438
Bullock152645
Perry141840
Sumter139241
Greene130245
Choctaw93228
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
55° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 55°
Columbus
Clear
53° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 53°
Oxford
Clear
50° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 50°
Starkville
Partly Cloudy
52° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 52°
Above normal temperatures will be the rule for our area over the next several days. We will stay on the dry side until this weekend.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather