| WASHINGTON, April 30
WASHINGTON, April 30 U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday
questioned the Transportation Security Administration's ability
to keep travelers safe and prevent terrorism attacks, citing
recent incidents that included a teenager who scaled a fence at
a California airport and stowed away in the wheel well of a
The TSA, which was formed after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks,
annually screens about 640 million travelers and 1.5 billion
bags on domestic and international flights leaving U.S.
Several incidents, including a shooting in November at Los
Angeles International Airport that left one TSA official dead,
have put the agency under close scrutiny from lawmakers, the
public and the transportation industry.
The recent stowaway case happened just weeks after the TSA
inspected the San Jose International airport, located in the San
Francisco Bay Area, and declared it to be in compliance with its
"If a 15-year-old can do this, who else can do this? What if
it was someone else with an explosive that got on that plane?"
Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, asked TSA
Administrator John Pistole, who testified before the Senate
Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.
Lawmakers also questioned the agency's employee security
clearance system, which may have been a factor in the killing of
a Navy security officer at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia in
Senator Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, noted that the
shooter, a truck driver named Jeffrey Savage, used his
TSA-issued Transportation Worker Identity Credential (TWIC) to
gain access to the station, although he had a history of
Once issued, the TSA expects TWIC-cleared employees to
self-report any criminal incidents, a system that lawmakers said
risks giving criminals access, as was the case in the Naval
"DHS (Department of Homeland Security) officials have told
us that job applicants in the fast-food industry typically
undergo a more robust background check than applicants for a
TWIC card," Warner said.
Pistole said the TSA is continually working to improve the
way it protects travelers and to train its workers, but needs
Congress to clear funding for some programs.
"We could require airports to do much, much more, but the
question is who pays for that," he said.
Since the TSA was formed, there has not been any successful
terrorism incident carried out on U.S. airlines. Even so,
Senator John Rockefeller, chairman of the committee, said the
recent security breaches underscore the need to continually
reevaluate and improve the agency's security measures.
"The looming question now is whether Congress is ready to
give up its stubborn hold on resources the TSA needs to meet its
mission," Rockefeller said.
(Reporting by Elvina Nawaguna; Editing by Leslie Adler)