Amid some concerns by travelers with new security screening procedures being conducted at airports by the Transportation Security Administration, Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl has requested a study to consider if a private company should take over screening at Los Angeles International Airport.
Stating that the city should explore its options in regards to airport security, Rosendahl introduced a motion Nov. 23 calling for airport officials to report to the council’s Trade, Commerce and Tourism Committee on the possibility of privatizing LAX screening.
“I want to look at all of our options in dealing with security at LAX,” Rosendahl, who represents the LAX area in the 11th District, said of his proposal. “It’s a healthy thing to know we have options, and obviously security is our number-one issue.”
The proposal comes as the TSA has begun using Advanced Imaging Technology machines, which capture full body images, as part of the screening process at airports across the country. Travelers have expressed concerns of privacy issues and radiological exposure, as well as with manual “pat-downs” on those who opt out of the body scanning.
Rosendahl noted in his motion that under the Transportation Security Act of 2001, airports are allowed to privatize the screening process after having used the TSA’s services for two years. According to the act, if an airport pursues a private entity, the federal government would continue to fund the security screening process at no cost to the airport.
TSA spokesman Nico Melendez confirmed that airports have the choice to require a private company to conduct screening under the Transportation Security Act. Nearly 20 airports nationwide have chosen a private screening contractor, including San Francisco International Airport, Melendez said.
“It’s up to the particular airports; if they feel it’s a viable option (to have private screening) they can certainly opt out,” he said.
But Melendez noted that airport screening procedures and requirements are supervised by the TSA, and even if the process is conducted by private companies, it would still be supervised by TSA. Private security screeners would still have to meet the same minimum TSA requirements and complete the same training to become employees, he said.
“The only difference is the people who sign the paychecks,” the TSA spokesman said.
Asked about any changes that may occur in the procedures with a private screening company rather than TSA, Melendez responded that the pat-downs conducted and body scanning machines used at LAX are the same ones as in San Francisco.
As part of Rosendahl’s motion, he requested that the airport officials’ report include the applicable rules and regulations governing the TSA screening privatization program, focusing on a private contractor’s ability to deviate from TSA’s protocols.
The councilman’s motion was introduced a day after Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was exposed to a body scanning machine at LAX, where he affirmed his support for the technology.
“Our job is to make the airport as safe as possible for travelers, and that means using the AIT scanners and pat-downs to screen for potential threats,” the mayor said. “These AIT scanners are the quickest, most efficient means to check people for concealed threats. Although a person can opt out of AIT and instead have a pat-down search, I know from experience that AIT is much faster and less invasive.
“I also would like to send a strong message to other airports around the country: If you don’t want the AITs that TSA has offered you, I will take them here at LAX.”
Rosendahl said he is not guaranteeing that privatizing the security screening at LAX would create any improvements in the process, but believes that it is certainly worth taking a look at the option.