Next time you’re waiting in your socks as your luggage is rifled through by security at the TSA checkpoint, you might reflect on how unchecked people and vehicles are getting through security in other parts of the airport. Our Corruption Chronicles blog exposes the disturbing facts.
The massive agency created after 9/11 to protect the nation risks security at U.S. airports by letting airlines impose expedited measures to keep traffic flowing, according to government officials interviewed by Judicial Watch.
“The airlines call the shots,” said a veteran federal agent who has worked at one of the nation’s largest airports as well as the Mexican and Canadian border. “It’s all about facilitating traffic, moving people. Airlines have incredible power at airports and they dictate how Customs and Border Protection (CPB) entry/exit inspection agents do their job.” In fact, airline employees are allowed in the inspections/customs area for incoming passengers specifically to monitor wait times and file complaints with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which caters to them.
Once they’re on the job, DHS caves into airlines’ demands for quick -- and less thorough -- inspections. “When you get to the port management moves away from the importance of inspections,” said one frustrated CPB inspector on the job for more than a decade. “It’s more about speed than safety.” Another longtime CPB agent confirmed that “wait times are a major problem which causes a security compromise to avoid complaints from the airlines and flyers, both international and domestic.” A high-level CPB port inspector with nearly 15 years of experience said Middle Eastern airlines get the “red carpet.”
Concerned CBP agents came forward about the unbelievable airport inspection protocol on the heels of a national newscast about food trucks driving through airport gates unchecked. The aircraft catering trucks are exempt from inspections for religious reasons, according to a former federal air marshal interviewed in the widely broadcast network segment. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), which also operates under DHS, is responsible for inspecting the trucks but the agency gives out “special exemptions” to food trucks serving planes heading to the Middle East. The agent interviewed in the broadcast was ordered to stand back and a supervisor later told him that “religious rights” prohibited the U.S. government from conducting even an “open and look” check on the cargo entering the airport grounds.
The security crisis is hardly limited to the nation’s airports, according to federal agents on the frontline. DHS also pressures CBP inspectors at southern border checkpoints to expedite people who have obtained pre-approved clearance under a program called Secure Electronic Network for Traveler Rapid Inspection (SENTRI). It allows vetted U.S. citizens and foreign nationals to cross the border faster and with virtually no scrutiny, but agents say the system is not foolproof and candidates still need to be checked.
In fact, CBP sources told Judicial Watch that huge loads of drugs have been confiscated from SENTRI border crossers randomly chosen for inspection by a government computer system known as Random Compliance Examination Program (COMPEX). Nevertheless, border agents get in trouble for delaying SENTRI crossers. “God forbid if you ask them a question or inspect their car,” said a CBP agent stationed at one of the nation’s busiest southern border crossings. “Management as well as the passenger become extremely upset -- Leave them alone! What are you doing? They have SENTRI.”
Over the years, we at Judicial Watch have revealed how corporations don’t always have our best interests at heart when it comes to our national security. We’re either serious about this or we aren’t.
Tom Fitton is president of Judicial Watch.