(CNSNews.com) - The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) cites passengers as one of 20 layers of security in place “to ensure the security of the traveling public,” according to a chart on its Web site.
The TSA and its ability to protect air travelers from terrorists are under close scrutiny following an attempted attack on Christmas Day. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian national, was able to board a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit with explosives hidden in his underwear. His attempt to blow up Northwest Flight 253 shortly before it landed was unsuccessful, thanks in part to a Dutch passenger who subdued Abdulmutallab.
The Obama administration has admitted that the transportation security system failed, that Abdulmutallab was trained and deployed by al Qaeda and that despite a warning given by the 23-year-old man’s father to U.S. officials in Nigeria that his son had embraced Islamic extremism, the U.S. State Department did not revoke the suspect’s visa.
The “Layers of Security” posting states that airport checkpoints are where TSA’s presence is most obvious to the public but that many other layers are in place, including intelligence-gathering and analysis, federal air marshals, checking passenger manifests against watch lists, canine searches, behavior detection officers and trained flight crews.
A graphic showing the 20 layers features intelligence at the head of the list, with an arrow pointing toward the opposite end of the graph where “passengers” are named as the last layer.
When CNSNews.com asked if the TSA considers airline passengers as the last layer of security for the TSA, a spokeswoman said the graphic did not imply any order of importance.
“While the graphic on our Web site does not list the layers in any particular order, each of these layers works together to create a robust security posture from curbside to cockpit,” the spokeswoman said. “An alert and vigilant traveling public is a valuable layer.”
On Sunday, the TSA posted a press release on its Web site stating that new security measures were being put into place at foreign airports, where security officials supposedly will provide more thorough screening of people traveling to the United States.
“Today, the Transportation Security Administration issued new security directives to all United States and international air carriers with inbound flights to the U.S. effective January 4, 2010,” the TSA said.
“The new directive includes long-term, sustainable security measures developed in consultation with law enforcement officials and our domestic and international partners,” it added.
“Because effective aviation security must begin beyond our borders, and as a result of extraordinary cooperation from our global aviation partners, TSA is mandating that every individual flying into the U.S. from anywhere in the world traveling from or through nations that are state sponsors of terrorism or other countries of interest will be required to go through enhanced screening,” the TSA said.
“The directive also increases the use of enhanced screening technologies and mandates threat-based and random screening for passengers on U.S. bound international flights,” it added.
When CNSNews.com asked how the TSA can make sure that security personnel at airports in foreign countries properly screen passengers – including those in countries confirmed or suspected by the United States of harboring terrorist elements – the spokeswoman pointed to international security standards with which airports serving the U.S. must comply.
“TSA works with international partners to share best practices for security but does not provide security officers or technology to other countries to perform screening,” the spokeswoman said. “International countries employ their own security screening forces who comply with international standards.”