TSA to test new security technology
From Mike M. Ahlers
CNN Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Clam diggers on the muddy flats near Boston's Logan International Airport in Massachusetts will be loaned GPS-equipped cell phones so they can alert authorities to suspicious activity -- just one of several ideas being tested this summer to protect airports from terrorists.
Five international airports will test new technology ranging from the cell phones to high-tech iris scanners, the Transportation Security Administration announced Monday.
The airports taking part in the pilot programs are Logan in Boston, JFK International Airport in New York, Denver International Airport in Colorado, Orlando International Airport in Florida and Utah's Salt Lake City International Airport.
The new tests constitute phase two of a plan to improve security around airport perimeters, which are of particular concern because of people could position themselves outside airports with shoulder-fired missiles, known as man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS).
In the days immediately after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, authorities evicted the clam diggers from the flats just outside the Boston airport, saying it was too difficult to monitor their activities. But the clam diggers fought the removal, and they returned to the area after submitting to FBI background checks.
To date, clam diggers have been using personal cell phones to call authorities, but the new plan calls for equipping them with government cell phones that reveal their exact locations via the global positioning system.
At Logan, the TSA and the Massachusetts Port Authority also will test an advanced water perimeter intrusion detection system, said retired Rear Adm. David M. Stone, assistant secretary of homeland security for the TSA. The new system includes an infrared intrusion detection system that will identify authorized people near active runways.
The two planes that crashed into the World Trade Center towers originated at Logan.
Other test that will be under way at airports this summer include:
-- The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, along with TSA, will test a barrier-free boundary surrounding a cargo warehouse at JFK airport. People who are authorized to enter the secure area will have a personal radio-frequency identification card and will need to have their fingerprint scanned prior to gaining access. In addition, the TSA will deploy a state-of-the-art video surveillance system to monitor access. The barrier-free area is within the cargo warehouse.
-- Working with Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, the TSA will test equipment to monitor access of vehicles into secure areas of the airport at Orlando International Airport. The TSA will analyze the use of a dual iris scan recognition reader at a vehicle access gate to allow only authorized personnel through.
-- Denver International Airport will test a barrier-free boundary surrounding a cargo warehouse at the airport using technology including ultrasonic emitters and microwave sensors. In this test, everyone authorized to enter the secure area will have to have their fingerprint scanned prior to entry. An advanced video surveillance system will also be installed to monitor access.
-- Salt Lake City Department of Airports will focus on enhancing access control to the baggage area entrance, which is part of the non-public, secure side of the airport. The technologies will include a hand geometry reader and a video motion surveillance analysis system to prevent personnel from piggybacking through the door.
The TSA said the technologies will be tested to determine both their effectiveness and their impact on airport operations. The technology will be deployed in June and the field tests will run through summer.