Video: Airport screening

By Don Teague Correspondent
NBC News
updated 3/4/2005 11:21:23 PM ET 2005-03-05T04:21:23

They are the front lines in the battle to protect the nation's airline passengers. But at the world's busiest airport in Atlanta, some checkpoint screeners say passengers are at risk.

"A mistake can cost lives, that's the problem," says Transportation Security Administration screener and union spokesperson John Summerour. "And I don't want to have that on my conscience."

The screeners say they're not receiving on-the-job training required by the TSA because management is too focused on keeping security lines moving.

"Safety goes out the window sometimes, you know?" says screener Rick Daley. "Because they want to push passengers through so they don't miss their plane."

But Atlanta's security chief says his screeners are properly trained.

"Security is No. 1," says Willie Williams, the federal security director at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. "Nothing comes above security."

Atlanta isn't the only airport facing tough questions about its security. At San Francisco's airport, a former employee says screeners there routinely cheated on security tests.

Can you spot the threats?Specifically, he says they were tipped off to secret decoy tests, to see if screeners can spot weapons on X-ray. Gene Bencomo says he was demoted after telling management that screeners were being warned about the decoys ahead of time.

"If the traveling public knew what was happening at that airport, I doubt very seriously that they would take an aircraft," says Bencomo.

Bencomo worked for a private company contracted by the TSA. The company's president says there's no evidence to support allegations that screeners were cheating.

"We cannot substantiate any of his breach allegations at all," says Gerry Berry with Covenant Aviation Security. "We can't do that. We've tried."

Still, aviation security experts say inadequate training is a problem at airports nationwide.

"We know there is no consistent training program across the country," says aviation security expert Michael Boyd. "We know there is no consistent training program even for the managers who manage screening checkpoints."

Back in Atlanta, airport officials say there has never been a major security breech, though some screeners say that without more training there could be.

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments