More than 1,400 security badges used by workers at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport that offer access to private baggage areas, tarmacs and other secure locations reportedly have been lost or stolen, according to an investigation by ABC station WSB.
The badges went missing between 2012 and 2014.
Airport officials said the badges alone wouldn’t be useful, that a personalized PIN number, specific to each employee, also is required in order for the badges to work.
“Due to those safeguards, we do not believe that lost or stolen badges pose a significant security threat to the airport,” Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport said in a statement.
Stephen Ganyard, a former Marine Corps fighter pilot and ABC News consultant, said the report is concerning.
“The airport said, ‘Well, they would have to have a PIN to get through a gate, they’d have to have a picture,’ but everybody knows they’ve been around places when somebody has a security badge and they say, ‘Oh, he has a badge, we’ll just let him in,’ or they can follow me through the door,” Ganyard said.
An airport official said such a scenario is unlikely because so called "piggybacking" is strictly forbidden and punishable by fines, suspension and possible termination. In addition, many entry points have turnstiles that only allow one person to enter at a time.
According to the WSB report, Atlanta’s airport does not use biometric screening for employees, which would include fingerprint or eye checks.
Employees lose their badges at every airport, not just in Atlanta, though the TSA has refused to release statistics on missing airport badges across the country, citing security concerns.
Atlanta airport officials added that the situation needs to be put into perspective: There are more than 63,000 employees working at the airport and that doesn't include many more who work for the airlines. So, they argue, 1,400 lost badges isn't so many over two years.