ALPA Responds: TSA Changes a Step Closer, but Much Left to Do

The Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA) today announced its support for elements of the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA’s) modifications to existing airport security screening measures, but urged the TSA to enhance other aspects of airline security.

ALPA is pleased that the TSA is focusing more resources on detecting improvised explosive devices – the downing of two Russian airliners in August 2004 by suicide bombers provides ample evidence that this threat is real and must be given greater attention. Making the security screening process for passengers less predictable may also have some deterrent value. The increased focus on bomb detection, screener training, and use of canine teams add more layers to the airline security system.

However, ALPA feels that decreasing the prohibited list of potentially dangerous items, without making a matching increase in efforts to screen passengers for hostile intent, is not necessarily a step toward increased passenger and crew security. 

“Our fellow crewmembers and passengers should not have to fear that dangerous individuals are traveling in the cabin, with or without weapons,” said ALPA's president, Capt. Duane Woerth. “We have consistently and repeatedly urged the federal government to screen for hostile intent, not just dangerous items.”

“Intent, not content, is the key,” Capt. Woerth continued. “The TSA’s new procedures fail to adequately address terrorism’s human element; although the prohibited list has changed, it is still focused on detecting the tools that a terrorist may use.” ALPA’s view is that behavioral screening, combined with advanced identity technologies and physical screening, can produce a superior screening system that is more effective and efficient than the one employed today.

Further, today’s TSA announcement demonstrates that the agency does not have the resources that it needs to develop an advanced screening system. ALPA strongly believes that airline security ticket taxes should not be the sole method for funding airline security and that the federal government can and should take on a greater role in safeguarding our airliners.

“As I told the Congress last year, airline security is national security and should be treated that way,” Capt. Woerth concluded.