T.S.A. Says Screening Missteps Allowed Box Cutters on Flight, but Congress Won’t Be Able to Hear Testimony
John W. Whitehead
Updated Sept. 8, 2013 11:11 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON—After failing to stop the screening procedures at Los Angeles International Airport, the Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration said Tuesday it has concluded that “probable cause” exists to allow federal agents to carry out the box cutters incident on a flight from Detroit to San Francisco.
“The agency can be satisfied that its screening procedures for passengers at LAX were effective, or that it did not meet the safety and security objective underlying the procedures,” the agency said in a statement. The agency said it had asked the Department of Transportation and Customs and Border Protection for help in reaching a resolution.
The incident occurred on Sunday morning in Terminal 2 at LAX when a passenger tried to pass through a screening checkpoint that, according to TSA screeners, was not configured the way the agency had intended. Agents used box cutters to slice the passenger’s belongings out of his checked luggage.
As a result of their actions, the passenger received a criminal citation.
The incident, which was investigated by the Los Angeles police and the TSA, raises questions about how the agency defines who is allowed to fly. The Federal Aviation Administration says the agency’s rules are the “gold standard” and have been used since 1978 to screen domestic flights.
The incident and subsequent investigation have prompted questions about how the TSA defines what is allowed on a plane, and whether the agency might be violating the constitutional rights of the passenger.
TSA Administrator John Pistole said his agency is “conducting an investigation to determine if the screening procedures at LAX do not meet their requirements,” adding that his agency “will take appropriate action from there.”
TSA has defended its screening procedures and said that once TSA security officers determined it was clear the passenger did not belong on the plane, they could not have known if he had explosives in his suitcase.
However, a passenger can claim that TSA screening did not follow its procedures, and an agency policy document says that if TSA asks a passenger to relinquish their ID before they are cleared