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License suspended for Boston Logan security firm

BOSTON, Massachusetts (CNN) -- Citing two security breaches since September 11, the agency that runs Boston's Logan International Airport is suspending the license of troubled Argenbright Security Inc., which handles checkpoint security for several airlines at the airport.

Col. John DiFava, acting security chief for the Massachusetts Port Authority, told CNN that Atlanta-based Argenbright can no longer be trusted.

The firm can appeal the decision at a hearing November 30, and can continue to staff security checkpoints until then so holiday travel won't be disrupted, DiFava said.

His order came after an Argenbright employee left an exit door unattended briefly, and hundreds of passengers had to be re-screened at a Delta concourse.

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In September, Argenbright employees left a metal detector unattended, allowing at least one passenger to walk to a US Airways gate without screening.

Argenbright's new chief executive, David Beaton, called DiFava's comments "troubling," and said in a prepared statement that the firm will appeal the order, which also affects Hanscom Field in Bedford, Massachusetts.

If the decision stands, the firm will be barred from operating in the state.

Argenbright, which has been under federal investigation, appointed Beaton early this month to lead the company after a man slipped by a screening area at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport with knives and a stun gun. Beaton has vowed sweeping changes.

Besides Logan and O'Hare, Argenbright provides security at several other airports nationwide, including Philadelphia International Airport, Newark International Airport and Washington Dulles International Airport.

Three Argenbright managers pleaded guilty in May 2000 to crimes involving Argenbright's employment practices at Philadelphia International Airport. The company was put on probation for three years, ordered to pay $1.55 million in fines and restitution and set up "a mandatory and comprehensive compliance program."

Last month, the Department of Justice filed a motion against Argenbright charging violations of the probation.

"We have dealt forthrightly with issues surrounding Philadelphia and have made strides to improve compliance and move the company forward," Beaton said. "Having been given a November 30 hearing date to discuss today's announcement, we find Mr. DiFava's statements very troubling."

Two of the hijacked flights that crashed into the World Trade Center September 11 originated at Logan, although Argenbright was not under contract to provide security for either. In Boston, Argenbright is used by US Airways, Delta, Delta Shuttle and America West.

Phil Orlandella, a spokesman for the port authority, said it is up to the airlines to decide who will replace Argenbright.

--CNN Producer Fran Fifis contributed to this report.


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