WASHINGTON — Airport screeners are about to get new security training designed to help them think creatively about possible threats — including those they have never thought of.
“We have to prepare for attacks that don’t fit our procedures,” such as the traveler who stuffed a block of cheese wrapped in wire into a checked bag, Transportation Security Administration Administrator Kip Hawley told reporters.
The screeners still will be vigilant for someone trying to bring a gun on a plane, but they also want to look for more offbeat threats, he said.
Part of the preparation is a new 12-hour training course that all 43,000 screeners across the country will go through. Currently screeners get four hours of retraining each week. But this new course includes briefings from field intelligence officials who will discuss the latest threats and trends. For example, in the 2006 London airliner plot, the operatives planned to put pornographic magazines in their carry-on luggage to distract the screeners.
Screeners will also learn about new explosive devices and will be shown how they look on the screen of an X-ray machine, as well as what they look like up close.
The third part of the training includes instructions on how to deal with passengers in a way that creates a calm environment. There will be no more screaming across checkpoint isles, and screeners will get tips on how not to be baited by an angry passenger.
The result will be a calmer checkpoint experience, TSA says. And calm travelers will make those with hostile intentions stand out, said agency spokesman Christopher White.
In addition, screeners will get redesigned uniforms and police-style metal badges, the agency said.
Hawley said this new training will help screeners catch potential terrorists who may be conducting dry runs through airports.
“We have to assume that that is occurring,” Hawley said. “Our job is to pick up on the clue.”
Screeners at Baltimore Washington International Airport will be the first to undergo the new training.
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