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TSA audit reveals no terrorist ties for 73 airline workers

By
Tomas Monzon
TSA employees screen airplane passengers at Denver International Airport. Photo by Arina P Habich / Shutterstock
TSA employees screen airplane passengers at Denver International Airport. Photo by Arina P Habich / Shutterstock

WASHINGTON, June 16 (UPI) -- A Transportation Security Administration audit has confirmed that 73 airline employees earlier suspected of terrorist ties have no such connections.

The audit, published June 4 by the Department of Homeland Security, explained that the TSA was unable to link the 73 airline employees to terrorists, although DHS had determined they had terrorist ties.

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DHS used a list not available to the TSA, leading DHS to conclude that TSA "is not authorized under current interagency watchlisting policy to receive certain terrorism-related category codes".

Appearing before the Homeland Security subcommittee on transportation, TSA deputy assistant Stacey Fitzmaurice ultimately confirmed that the agency found no ties between terrorism and the workers. Committee chairman and Representative John Katko, R-N.Y. criticized the TSA for its lethargy in producing this information. Fitzmaurice said the TSA used the FBI's watch list, which, he argued, contains more reasonable data than that of the National Counterterrorism Center, a rawer data set that DHS used to produce its report. The TSA does not have access to NCTC's data.

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Inspector General for Homeland Security John Roth explained that it took 18 months for the agency to clear legal obstacles and run the names of the aviation workers against the NCTC list. NCTC carried out the comparison itself once authorization was secured.

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To prevent future problems, Katko pushed House leaders Tuesday to pass his reform bill HR2750, "Improved Security Vetting for Aviation Workers Act of 2015". Additionally, Fitzmaurice and the TSA are still working on gaining full access to NCTC's list.

The news of TSA wanting access to an intelligence database comes just as TSA chief Melvin Carraway was reassigned after an investigation revealed widespread failures with airport security. In 70 tests performed by DHS, 67 attempts at sneaking fake weapons into airports were successful. At the time, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson called for TSA to reevaluate its screening equipment and review its operating procedures.

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