— -- A Federal Aviation Administration safety inspector was arrested at New York's LaGuardia Airport after a firearm was allegedly found in his carry-on bag at the security checkpoint, the TSA announced today.
The TSA said in a statement it was investigating along with the FAA and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department.
The FAA agent's trip began at Hartsfield-Atlanta International Airport, where he had a Security Identification Display Area badge, allowing him to bypass security. He had no such badge for LaGuardia, which was where the weapon was discovered.
Hartsfield-Atlanta was also the origination point for an alleged gun smuggling ring that brought weapons to New York.
In that case as well, suspects allegedly took advantage of employee tags that allowed them to bypass normal security.
"TSA is taking these recent incidents very seriously, and has taken immediate steps to enhance site security at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and other major U.S. airports," the TSA said.
In response to the arrest, FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta today suspended a program that allowed safety inspectors to bypass the TSA's screening checkpoints to access secure areas of an airport during the course of their normal duties.
"The FAA will stand down the program while it conducts improved training for all of its inspectors," the FAA said. "The agency also will require inspectors to sign a new agreement that details each inspector's responsibility under the program and clearly states that any infraction related to a weapon will result in an immediate and permanent suspension of privileges and possible further disciplinary action."
Among the other measures the TSA is implementing or considering are additional requirements for employee screening; conducting additional, randomized security countermeasures at employee access points; and introducing additional security patrols by TSA teams of law enforcement and screening professionals to specifically address these concerns.
"Last week, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson traveled to Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport to meet with airport stakeholders and discuss and assess potential vulnerabilities related to site security at airports," the TSA said. "DHS has requested the Aviation Security Advisory Committee conduct an expedient and comprehensive review of the issues related to the security of the sterile areas at airports nationwide in order to identify all viable means for the department to address any potential vulnerability."
The Atlanta-based FAA inspector allegedly used his Security Identification Display Area (SIDA) badge to gain access to the sterile area at Hartsfield–Jackson, bypassing the TSA security checkpoint, prior to flying to New York.
The employee did not have SIDA privileges at New York's LaGuardia Airport, and was subject to TSA screening. The weapon was discovered during the standard screening process at the checkpoint.