Technology + critical thinking skills = good catch

Friday, September 4, 2020
Two TSA officers at Washington Dulles International Airport

Two TSA officers at Washington Dulles International Airport used screening technology, critical thinking skills and their network resources to detect a replica explosive in checked baggage.

Officer Tim Simmons flagged the bag for further inspection after confirming what screening technology flagged as an obvious threat. Lead Officer Webb also saw what appeared to be an obvious threat and instructed Simmons to stop screening.   

Webb used a computed tomography X-ray image to determine the location of the threat inside the bag and notified Supervisory Officer Karen Cribley. After confirming the obvious threat, Cribley conferred up her chain to Transportation Security Manager Debebe Tachbel and Transportation Security Specialist-Explosives Henry Zelek and Todd Corbin.

The item was a M18A1 Claymore mine training aid. The antipersonnel mine, developed for the U.S. Armed Forces in 1966, fires by remote control and shoots a pattern of metal balls like a shotgun.

Zelek conducted additional testing, using explosives detection capabilities, confirming the item was an inert training aid.

Zelek and Corbin agreed the item should not be allowed to travel since realistic replicas of explosives or explosive devices aren’t allowed in carry-on or checked bags.

Two TSA officers at Washington Dulles International Airport used screening technology,

“The use of our technology is only as good as the critical thinking applied by our workforce,” said Deputy Assistant Federal Security Director-Screening Arthur Hayes. “The officers at Dulles utilized critical thinking during this event and were able to mitigate a prohibited item from gaining access. [Officers] Webb and Simmons utilized their chain of command and available resources per the standard operating procedures to resolve the threat.”

“Automation is great,” said Webb when asked how technology helps the screening process. While it has its flaws, it greatly increases our efficiency without sacrificing effectiveness.”