FBI’s Role in Access Control Measures at Our Nation’s Airports
Good afternoon Chairman Katko, Ranking Member Rice, and members of the subcommittee. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today and for your continued support of the men and women of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). I am particularly pleased to be here today with Mark Hatfield, the acting deputy administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to discuss our role in access control measures at our nation’s airports.
Today’s FBI is a threat-focused, intelligence-driven organization. Every FBI professional understands that preventing the key threats facing our nation means constantly striving to be more efficient and more effective.
Just as our adversaries continue to evolve, so, too, must the FBI. We live in a time of acute and persistent terrorist and criminal threats to our national security, our economy, and to our communities. These diverse threats illustrate the complexity and breadth of the FBI’s mission and make clear the importance of its partnerships, especially with the Transportation Security Administration, in reducing security vulnerabilities in our nation’s transportation system.
In fact, our national headquarters and local field offices have built partnerships with just about every federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement agency in the nation. Our agents, analysts, and professional staff work closely with law enforcement, intelligence, and security services—to include representatives at our nation’s airports and airlines—to mitigate the threat posed to our nation’s transportation infrastructure and internal aviation security processes and systems. By combining our resources and leveraging our collective expertise, we are able to investigate national security threats that cross both geographical and jurisdictional boundaries.
Civil Aviation Security Program
In conjunction with our partners, the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division’s (CTD) Civil Aviation Security Program (CASP) is extensively involved in efforts to uncover and prevent terrorist operations to attack or exploit civil aviation in the United States. The FBI has special agents and task force officers assigned as airport liaison agents (ALAs) at each of the nation’s TSA-regulated airports in order to respond to aviation-related incidents and threats, participate in joint FBI-TSA airport vulnerability assessments, and interact with interagency and private sector stakeholders at airports around the country on exercises, threat mitigation, and other issues to protect the traveling public.
The FBI’s CASP and ALA program were created in 1990 to formalize the Bureau’s investigative, intelligence, and liaison activities at the nation’s airports. CASP is located in the FBI’s National Joint Terrorism Task Force with a focus on supporting and enhancing efforts to prevent, disrupt, and defeat acts of terrorism directed toward civil aviation, and to provide counterterrorism preparedness leadership and assistance to federal, state, and local agencies responsible for civil aviation security. One of CASP’s primary responsibilities is to provide program management and support to the FBI’s ALAs. In addition, CASP represents the FBI on aviation security policy matters, provides guidance and training to the field, and supports national aviation security initiatives and mandates. I would like to go over briefly CASP’s efforts to mitigate the insider threat at America’s airports.
Since 2009, CASP has produced numerous intelligence products that are shared with the U.S. Intelligence Community. A couple of the unclassified product titles include:
- Aviation-Related Suspicious Activities: An FBI Assessment (3 June 2005)
- Terrorist Training Document Reveals Travel Guidance and Tactics (13 October 2009)
To further mitigate threats to aviation, CASP produces and distributes a comprehensive daily aviation-centric intelligence summary for all ALAs and various FBI programs. This summary includes the latest threats to aviation, suspicious activity reporting within the air domain, current intelligence reporting, and updates on active aviation cases of importance. In addition, CASP intelligence analysts produce threat intelligence reports yearly in support of congressionally mandated FBI-TSA Joint Airport Vulnerability Assessments (JAVAs) and coordinate on-site FBI representation at JAVA events.
CASP has conducted three FBI Air Carrier Security Directors (ACSD) forums since 2011, with a three-day forum planned for August of this year. CASP has published nine aviation-centric Operation Tripwires since 2003, with a 2010 Operation Tripwire that addressed the insider threat specifically. For those of you not familiar with the FBI’s Operation Tripwire, it began in 2003 as a CTD initiative designed to improve the FBI’s intelligence and information base. The program’s vision is to develop FBI partnerships that help to identify U.S.-based terrorist sleeper cells through collecting and assessing specific information related to potential counterterrorism threats. The program’s goal is to leverage outreach programs focused on aiding industry and local officials in recognizing suspicious activity and providing them a point of contact for reporting that activity, as well as to provide actionable items for the Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTF).
CASP proactively develops curriculum on aviation security issues and provides training to ALAs, other government agencies, the private sector, and foreign governments.
CASP provides operational support to the FBI’s ALAs and substantive units on active investigations, and provides strategic intelligence products on terrorists’ tactics, techniques, and procedures. CASP responds to:
- Official requests for information and requests for assistance
- Requests related to investigations of laser pointer illuminations of aircraft
- Unmanned aerial vehicle incidents
- Government Accountability Office inquiries
- National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) aircraft accident investigation assistance
- Aviation-related exercises and hijacking response plans involving ALA and FBI equities
CASP developed a series of ALA best practices that leverages division-specific initiatives for broad participation by all FBI divisions and ALAs. These initiatives include documents and guidance on conducting vulnerability assessments at general aviation airports under the General Aviation Assessments Initiative; issuing federal misdemeanors for non-felonious criminal acts at airports under the Federal Misdemeanor Violations best practice; conducting recurring criminal record checks through the FBI’s National Crime Information Center on airport employees under the Air Domain Computer Information Comparison initiative; and providing checklists and guidance for handling a major aviation crisis, such as a commercial airliner crash, under the Aviation Crisis Response Checklist best practice initiative.
CASP also has access to the Federal Aviation Administration managed Domestic Events Network allowing for enhanced response and situational awareness during real-time aviation incidents.
One of CASP’s major focus areas is conducting training for the FBI’s ALAs, other government agencies, and private-sector stakeholders. CASP has led the way with innovative, cost savings training initiatives that include:
- In 2011, CASP conducted joint FBI-NTSB ALA regional training, instructing attendees on how to handle issues surrounding a major aviation crisis within their area of responsibility. Conducted three FBI ACSD forums since 2011, and CASP launched a mandatory ALA-specific Virtual Academy Training Course for FBI employees entitled Airport Liaison Agent Fundamentals in 2012.
- CASP recently worked with ALA coordinators for in-depth training at Los Angeles International Airport, Los Angeles, California, on 10-11 September 2014.
Working Groups and Policy Meetings
CASP represents the FBI’s equities on various interagency and industry committees/working groups, such as:
- Air Domain Awareness Working Group
- Man Portable Air Defense System Analyst Working Group
- Secondary Barrier Working Group
- Civil Aviation Threat Working Group
- Aviation Information Sharing Working Group
- Air Domain Intelligence-Integration and Analysis Center Working Group
- Unmanned Aircraft Systems Event Reporting Working Group
- International General Aviation Working Group
Insider Threat Cases
Several recent high-profile cases underscore the threat from “insiders,” which are rogue employees that exploit their credentials, access, and knowledge of security protocols. The FBI and our interagency partners cooperated on the following arrests:
- The arrest of Wichita-based Terry Lee Loewen on December 13, 2013 by the FBI Wichita JTTF. Loewen was charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, maliciously attempting to damage and destroy by explosive, and attempting to provide material assistance to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Loewen, an avionics technician with Secure Identification Display Area badge access to Wichita Mid-Continent Airport, was taken into custody after he allegedly armed what he believed to be an explosive device and attempted to open a security access gate. During the investigation, Loewen allegedly engaged in, among other things, pre-operational surveillance, photographing gate access points, researching flight schedules, and assisting in the acquisition of vehicle-borne improvised explosive device components and construction of an explosive device.
- In December 2014, Eugene Harvey, a baggage handler at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, was arrested on a federal complaint charging him with trafficking in firearms and entering the secure areas of the airport in violation of security requirements. The complaint alleges that Harvey repeatedly evaded airport security with bags of firearms, some of which were loaded. He then allegedly passed the guns off to an accomplice, who transported them as carry-on luggage to New York, where they were illegally sold. On at least five occasions in 2014, Harvey, a baggage handler for Delta Air Lines, worked with another former Delta employee to allegedly smuggle firearms through airport-controlled security checkpoints for Delta employees, and thus he was not required to go through the screening performed for passengers by TSA. Once through the airport-controlled security checkpoints, the firearms were allegedly carried in carry-on baggage into the passenger cabins of aircraft. Each time, Harvey’s accomplice flew to New York with the guns, where they were allegedly illegally sold.
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Chairman Katko, Ranking Member Rice, thank you again for this opportunity to testify concerning access control measures at our nation’s airports. The FBI’s efforts and successes would not be possible without the continued positive working relationship with our partners and your support. I would be happy to answer any questions you might have.