Topic Author
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Interesting Argument Against Fed'ing Security

Thu Nov 08, 2001 12:30 pm

Thought this was a compelling case for better regulation, but not federal employment...
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RE: Interesting Argument Against Fed'ing Security

Thu Nov 08, 2001 5:01 pm

I agree with the article. Here's another one:

If screeners go federal, system may go postal

Here's my take on the situation. The government is unhappy with the security firms the airlines have chosen. Rather than the government trying to do the job itself, why not have the government come up with a uniform set of procedures that would be done at every airport.

They can come up with a list of requirements and any company that cannot meet those requirements would not be certified by the government to perform airport security work. Those that are, could. If a firm is initially certified and then later has problems, that firm doesn't just get a fine. It gets a fine and gets de-certified until the problems are corrected to the government's satisfaction.

The government should set uniform standards and regulate the security firms. The security firms should figure out how to meet the federal requirements in the most cost effective manner, and the ones that can do so get more business. The airlines still have a choice in choosing a firm based on cost and/or service instead of putting all their security eggs in one basket (the government.)

If the government sets higher standards, then costs will go up all all the security firms, but the airlines would still have a choice in who to hire based on cost effectiveness.

If something goes wrong, instead of the governement jumping all over the airlines, the airlines can jump a over the government and say "Hey, I thought you checked out all these firms and said they were comepetent."

The government can de-certify the security firm (or the airline can fire them) and there will still be other choices to fall back on. If security is federalized and the government winds up not doing a good job, who are we going to fall back on then?


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RE: Interesting Argument Against Fed'ing Security

Thu Nov 08, 2001 6:27 pm

Yeah just like the government currently requires all screeners to be American citizens or permanent residents...and the security companies just continue to hire illegals despite this wonderful federal oversight.

Then that tells me the government is only doing half the job. They've set a uniform standard (all screeners need to be American citizens or permanent residents) but they aren't bothering to enforce those standards. They're depending on the airlines to do it for them.

The airlines aren't law enforcement agencies. They're private companies that provide air travel for passengers and cargo. If the government is the one setting the standards and making the laws, then let the government do the enforcing. JMHO.


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RE: Interesting Argument Against Fed'ing Security

Thu Nov 08, 2001 7:19 pm

I think the problem with not federalizing them is that it puts the burden on the airlines to keep their costs low, and therefore to give the work to the lowest bidder, ie one likely to do the worst job, as we keep seeing. Remember that people have been complaining for a long, long time that our airport security has been much lower that in Europe for example.
The airlines won't hire more expensive firms because it makes them less competitive vis a vis each other, no matter what the long term cost of disasters as 9/11 are. If on the other hand the govt. mandated a charge on everyone's ticket to help pay for more expensive security, then it doesn't create a dislevel in the market among the airlines.
That having been said, I was curious when someone told me that the Israelis actually privatized their security. Can anyone verify/explain that?
It is not enough to be rude; one must also be incorrect.
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RE: Interesting Argument Against Fed'ing Security

Thu Nov 08, 2001 10:37 pm

Have you guys ever heard about how hard it is to fire a Government employee for incompetence?

We couldn't get Billy out of there for 8 years, (sorry had to say it)

Seriously thought. We are talking about creating 38,000 UNION federal employee's.

Why are they going to be motivated to do a good job? It will be almost impossible to fire them. They would really really have to work at it.

If you use a contractor. He can fire at his lesiure since his workforce will probably be non-union. Also if he screws up it isn't as big of deal to get rid of them.
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RE: Interesting Argument Against Fed'ing Security

Thu Nov 08, 2001 10:57 pm

Classic case the the politics of "pass the buck to the government".

The airlines say it'll cost them too much to raise the standard of security, well then hey, do it otherwise people won't fly. If the government picks up the tab, then I don't really care as long as the standards are good...

It's interesting that a year before 9/11, I saw a program on Discovery highlighting the shortcomings of airport security (especially baggage screening and personell training)... in the US.

When losing situational awareness, pray Cumulus Granitus isn't nearby !
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RE: Interesting Argument Against Fed'ing Security

Fri Nov 09, 2001 2:28 am

This raises an interesting question: How do other countries handle security screening at airports? Is it done by private agencies or companies? Are there government standards? How do these operate?

It seems to me that there is a body of information out there on how security screening can be done more effectively. I don't think the USA needs to re-invent the wheel, but at the same time, I question whether we have to adopt Israeli-type security measures either.

I would be interested in hearing the experiences of checkpoint security standards and how they are implemented in other countires.


Charles, SJ
The customer isn't a moron, she is your wife -David Ogilvy
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RE: Interesting Argument Against Fed'ing Security

Fri Nov 09, 2001 2:42 am


A privately paid minimum wage transient with limited benefits versus a public employee making a survivable living with tangible benefits. Who's gonna be more motivated?

And everyone brings up the Postal Service, or the INS, as an example of government incompetence....fine. Prove to me a private company COULD do the same job ten times better? One look at defense contractors proves that motivation for excellence evaporates the minute that lucrative contract with the government is signed. They've ponied up to the bar with a guaranteed tab. Why should they do things better and cheaper?

It boils down to the very simple fact that security companies and airlines have much larger bank accounts to feed campaign contributions into Republican politicos greedy pockets than federal employees (or God forbid a union!)...and the GOP in the House, for better or MUCH calling the shots.

By the way, in December 1999 a nervous but otherwise legal traveller of Middle Eastern descent was trying to cross into the US from Canada at a border checkpoint between Vancouver and Seattle. He didn't look quite right to one of those bumbling, incompetent federal employees, who detained him.

And thus a terroristic nightmare in downtown Seattle on the eve of the Millenium was thwarted.
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RE: Interesting Argument Against Fed'ing Security

Fri Nov 09, 2001 3:05 am

I think the security can be trained by the DOJ/Coast Guard, and monitored by that same agency. Airlines still pay for the contract, but let the Gov't oversee the standards (kinda like what the EPA or FCC does).

Let the FAA take care of air space..that way only one thing will be messed up.
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RE: Interesting Argument Against Fed'ing Security

Fri Nov 09, 2001 5:38 am

I have no problem with making security screeners Federal employees, but instead of creating a new bureocracy to do it, just give the responsibility to the FBI, Secret Service, U.S. Customers, the DOJ, or the FAA. Or better yet, have actual law enforcement agencies locally do it. If you've ever been down to your local courthouse, the guy manning the metal detector is usually some old codger the Sheriff's Dept. has and is working there at the twilight of his career. Instead of having some multi-job working person manning these checkpoints, we need real law enforcement agents running these things; I wouldn't even mind if the military did it, anything would be better than the current system. We need someone who is already trained to deal with the situations that may arise at a checkpoint, and who better than a law officer.
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RE: Interesting Argument Against Fed'ing Security

Fri Nov 09, 2001 7:10 am


There was another recent thread on this topic, "Federalize Airport Security? Debate."

In that thread you correctly pointed out that, "Funny thing is companies like Argenbright who are responsible for airport security are 100% owned by European corporations like Securitas, AHL Services, etc. The fact that different "arms" of the same corporation can provide such a vastly different level of security is a call to arms for greater US government supervision in this area."

I agreed with you and posted links to two articles which backed up your claims. One of them was this article from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Trouble lurks at baggage scanners

Here are some excerpts from that article:

One major firm, Argenbright Security Inc., was convicted last year on charges that it lied to the FAA about whether it conducted background checks on job applicants. It hired dozens of criminals -- including some convicted of kidnapping and assault -- to handle security at Philadelphia International Airport. The company pleaded guilty in April 2000, paid a $1.6 million penalty and was put on probation for three years.

Earlier this month, prosecutors told a judge that Argenbright had violated the terms of its probation by failing again to check for criminal backgrounds.

Argenbright promised to start performing the checks; the judge extended its probation by two more years.

Is it safe to assume that Argenbright's trial was held in a federal court? If that's the case, and Argenbright is continuing to screw up and not follow the guidelines, why isn't the federal judge (government) getting rid of Argenbright instead of extending their probation for an additional 2 years?

FAA officials routinely have found they were able to get weapons past screeners and onto planes. The agency issued TWA more than $1 million in fines for more than 1,165 security violations from 1979 to 1999. Like other airlines, TWA routinely passed such fines on to its airport security contractors.

So instead of the government fining the security firms and the airlines and having the airlines passing their portion of the fine on to the security firm, why doesn't the government assess all the fines to the security firms directly and leave the airlines out of it?

More from the above article:

European security companies generally provide better security than their American counterparts, partly because they pay employees more, train them better and offer them a good career, said Yosef Yahav, a vice president for ICTS. Yet new foreign ownership does not necessarily mean security will improve in the United States, said Chris Yates, aviation security editor for Jane's, a British research firm.

The companies need to be "better regulated" for security to improve, he said. "This includes dealing with vexed issues, such as employee background checking, enhanced training regimes, better pay and working conditions, including benefits."

I don't think the airlines can or should "regulate" the private security firms and tell them they have to pay their employees a certain wage, and give them certain benefits, and tell them they need to use certain standards when training their employees. That should be the responsibility of the government.

More from the above article:

One reason European companies have been enticed to the United States is that they see the American market as less regulated, Yates said.

Well why are the security firms in Europe "more regulated"? And who does the "regulating", the European governments or the airlines?

That situation, too, is changing. If Congress doesn't put federal employees in control of airport screening, then it seems likely that the government will take a much closer supervisory role.

That is my whole point. The government doesn't need to handle security themselves, they need to better regulate the security industry and enforce the regulations, which they, the government, have set in place.

Shortly after the terrorist attacks, the FAA issued tighter security rules that appeared to be aimed directly at reports that the hijackers wielded box cutters. For instance, previously passengers could carry knives with blades less than four inches long.

And whose fault was that? The government's, not the airlines.

The new FAA rules prohibit any knives.

The air security industry points out that no authorities have asserted that the companies failed in their jobs or experienced a security breakdown on Sept. 11. The hijackings and crashes of the four flights that day remain under investigation by a host of federal agencies.

One final point (and I am by no means trying to start a flame war with you), but I assumed by your statement in the earlier thread about the need for more government supervision in this area, that you were inferring that the government needed to more closely supervise the security firms.

Yet, in this thread, you state, "Government oversight over a group of poorly educated and retarded people doesn't help much---they don't have the capacity to do a good job period.

It seems like in the original thread you were all for more government supervision of the security firms, but now you are saying it might be better if the government just did security themselves. Or did I just misunderstand the point you were trying to make in the earlier thread?


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RE: Interesting Argument Against Fed'ing Security

Fri Nov 09, 2001 10:20 am

The crux of the problem is that airport security is totally unregulated. The Chairman the Chicago City Council Finance committee, Edward Burke, said:

''Local security companies have to have licenses issued by the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation. Their employees can't be criminals. They have to be properly trained. If you're an armed guard in Illinois, you have to log a minimum number of hours. If you arm a guard who's not trained properly, you can lose your license.''

This does not happen at airports because airport security is exempt from state regulation, and the Federal Govenment has no mechanism for ensuring that these firms are doing their job.

"If we could license them, I'll tell you one thing: That place would be cleaned up in 30 days" Burke says.

It does not matter who regulates, either the State, City or the FAA. Someone needs to either provide effective oversight of airport security, or they need to take the operation over themselves. The incident at ORD points to a glaring problem, and the security firms amazingly do not seem to be taking the problem seriously

Charles, SJ
The customer isn't a moron, she is your wife -David Ogilvy
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RE: Interesting Argument Against Fed'ing Security

Fri Nov 09, 2001 10:29 am

Wackenhut is leaving BWI, and has indeed left most airport security situations...why? They are constantly underbid.

That the word "underbid" is actually associated with the safety of the people in American jetliners at any given moment pretty much ends the debate in my eyes.

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