Report supports charge that airport screeners were alerted to covert testers

Tuesday, November 14th 2006, 4:53 pm
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) Security checkpoint managers at San Francisco International Airport were warned when undercover inspectors came to test how well screeners detected fake bombs and weapons, a government report said Tuesday.

The report, obtained by The Associated Press, confirms allegations brought in February 2005 by a whistleblower who formerly worked for Covenant Aviation Security.

Covenant provides security at the San Francisco airport, one of a handful of airports that uses private companies under a program established by Congress.

The Transportation Security Administration, which is in charge of airport security, asked its watchdog agency to investigate the charges by the former worker, Gene Bencomo.

``We confirmed the allegation,'' said the report by the Homeland Security Department's inspector general, Richard Skinner.

The report said the company used surveillance cameras to track testers as they made their way through the airport, and told the screeners before the testers arrived at the checkpoints.

The inspector general concluded that activity took place between August 2003 and May 2004, but that TSA and Covenant ordered it stopped.

The inspector general concluded that the case was closed.

Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee, said the report was troubling and validated what whistleblowers told him had occurred in his home airport, Jackson International Airport.

``How is the public expected to have any confidence in the screening systems when managers game the system?'' Thompson said.