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Passenger checks, cargo still airport security problems

October 17, 2007|From a Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The Department of Homeland Security has made some progress in making air travel more secure but has yet to implement recommended improvements in screening passengers and air cargo, a Senate panel was told Tuesday.

Although it has made progress in inspecting checked baggage and securing some mass transit systems, the Transportation Security Administration has not implemented a government-run program to match passenger information against terrorist watch lists, leaving some airlines to rely on foreign contractors to carry out the vetting, said Cathleen A. Berrick, director of homeland security at the Government Accountability Office.

TSA also currently lacks the technology to detect explosives on passengers, carry-on baggage and foreign cargo traveling on passenger planes, she said.

In testimony before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Berrick said TSA has met about 70% of performance expectations the GAO identified. She said that because the job of clearing passengers falls on commercial carriers, inconsistency could compromise security.

Berrick said the government plans to take over passenger screening through Secure Flight, a system matching passenger information with no-fly lists.

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