WASHINGTON - The Transportation Security Administration will be screening all checked baggage by midnight Tuesday as Congress mandated in the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, Under Secretary of Transportation for Security Adm. James M. Loy said today.
"Meeting the 36th - and final - deadline that Congress set for the TSA is a huge accomplishment,” Adm. Loy said. "With this additional layer of security in place, airports and air travelers are better protected than they have ever been."
President Bush signed legislation creating the TSA on November 19, 2001 in response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. In late January TSA existed in name only with a total of 13 employees. Now, 158 federal security directors have responsibility for the nation's 450 commercial airports, thousands of federal air marshals are on flights every day and some 56,000 security screeners are on the job.
The TSA worked with every airport to develop individual plans for screening all bags using methods set out in the legislation creating the TSA. Today’s announcement reflects the commitment of thousands of Americans - federal employees, contractors and aviation industry representatives.
Congress authorized extensions to the December 31, 2002 deadline for fully deployed electronic detection systems in the legislation which created the new Department of Homeland Security. Adm. Loy exercised his discretion to approve extensions at a handful of the nation's airports while directing the use of other congressionally approved methods in the interim. The simple result is that all checked baggage will be screened before it goes on an aircraft.
Before September 11, 2001 only 5 percent of bags were being checked. By midnight Tuesday all bags will be checked with over 90 percent of bags being checked electronically.
Besides explosives detection and explosives trace detection machines approved methods include canine teams hand searches and passenger-bag matching. For security reasons the TSA will not divulge how many waivers were issued or be specific about how baggage is screened at individual airports.
Adm. Loy has given federal security directors authority to respond to issues that may arise from the screening process. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta has insisted from the very beginning that improved security be accomplished as a parallel effort with world-class customer service. That balance remains in place as checked baggage screening is added to TSA’s layered "system of systems" that is now in place at the nation's airports.