September 11 led to the TSA. Here’s what they’re doing at Denver Airport

DENVER (KDVR) – As the United States prepares to mark the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the Transportation Security Administration is giving the public new insight into the efforts it takes for Denver International Airport to ensure passenger safety.

In 2021, Denver was the fifth busiest U.S. airport for TSA with just under 7.4 million passengers from January through June.

That’s a big jump from 2019, when the TSA screened more than 23 million passengers at Denver, the 10th busiest airport that year.

Most passengers are already familiar with the drill: check your bag, wait in the security line to show your ticket, scan your backpack, kick your shoes off, go through the x-ray machine and off you go.

This process became the norm at US airports after 9/11 with the creation of the TSA, which standardized security procedures across the country to ensure a high level of security.

“Our main thing is that we don’t want this to happen again – September 11,” TSA director at Denver International Airport Doug Johnstone told FOX31.

How the TSA monitors airport visitors

Their work begins even before anyone boards a flight.

TSA’s Secure Flight program checks each passenger’s name against the Terrorist Watch List and the No-Fly List before boarding passes are issued. This has been done for 100% of domestic and foreign flights to or from the United States since 2010. The TSA performs the same type of screening for foreign airlines whose air routes pass through the United States.

“People known to pose a threat to aviation do not receive boarding passes and are not allowed to fly – period,” TSA spokeswoman Lorie Dankers said.

Anyone without a boarding pass is no longer allowed to pass the TSA first screening officer.

Once inside the security line, passengers undergo a routine check of themselves, clothing and carry-on baggage. The 23 million annual passengers who leave the DIA will be screened at checkpoints.

“This is the primary control to get you to your plane and to your destination,” TSA Chief Officer Carley Krenz said.

Krenz is also trained as a Passenger Support Specialist, who assists passengers who may need additional assistance or alternate screening due to a medical issue. However, PSS agents are also on the lookout for passengers trying to find a security breach.

“They should be aware of attempts at ‘social engineering’ on the part of travelers who wish to bypass the screening process by claiming that a particular circumstance is preventing them from completing the screening process,” Dankers said.

PSS agents typically assist passengers traveling with infants, breast milk, diabetic supplies, wheelchairs and other atypical travel items.

“We trust the passenger. We just want to make sure that they and their belongings are still safe, ”Krenz said.

Assistance from a PSS agent can be scheduled in advance or on site at any US airport.

What happens with your luggage at the airport

While passengers are screened, their checked baggage goes through a unique screening process. By law, all baggage that travels on a commercial aircraft must be screened.

“The traveling public does not see the baggage operation and this is just as important as the screening that takes place at the checkpoint,” said Johnstone. “We check all the bags. Every bag that is checked.

In Denver, there are 10 miles of conveyor belts coordinating a baggage highway through the airport. On Sunday August 1, the TSA scanned approximately 72,000 passengers and 41,801 pieces of baggage.

“The main thing we’re looking for here with checked baggage is explosives, IEDs,” Johnstone said.

TSA examines checked baggage using high-tech machines that create a 3D x-ray image of the contents.

“This technology on the CTX actually searches for hundreds of different items in that bag,” Johnstone said.

The TSA said 95% of the bags go through screening in about five to seven minutes. If the scanner detects questionable material or reports a bag for some other reason, it is sent for a follow-up check involving a TSA agent inspecting the image. Some bags also require additional physical checking when the image is still too blurry.

“Our main job is safety-oriented: making sure all the bags get on this plane without any safety threats,” Johnstone said.

But that’s not all: unannounced checks take place throughout the airport

While passengers can expect the TSA to screen all passengers and baggage every time they travel, there is another level of airport security that is designed to be unpredictable.

“We do an unpredictable continuous check-up,” said Jennifer Lackey, TSA officer.

Lackey and his team of specialized screening officers perform spot checks anywhere and everywhere in the airport, including checkpoints, terminals, lobbies and ramps to deter insider threats from TSA agents , airport employees, pilots and other airline personnel.

The checks include identity checks and bag searches similar to what passengers experience.

“It’s just to make sure we cover all the bases so that no threats are successful,” Lackey said.

There are also dogs

Another more well-known tool designed to be unpredictable is the TSA’s Passenger Screening Canines. Dogs like Beli, a German short-haired pointer who works at the DIA, are specially trained to detect explosives and explosive residue inside the airport, on planes and on people.

“CSPs are trained to navigate large groups of people to locate the source of an explosive odor. PSC dog handlers are trained to read dog behavior when it indicates that an explosive odor has been detected often without the source knowing and even if the source is mobile, ”Dankers said.

Dogs have been used as a tool for detecting explosives for many years, including before September 11. However, following the tragic attacks, the dogs are now trained to focus on the passengers as well.

“It was a new addition to the program after 9/11,” TSA canine supervisor Casey Stevens said. “So we focused on the person as well, and that wasn’t something that was common before September 11th.”

It is not known how many dogs like Beli work at the DIA and at other airports across the country. Their schedules are kept confidential in the context of their unpredictability.

“It’s a huge psychological deterrent,” Stevens said.

According to Stevens, criminals know they will be unable to pass explosives near a dog, which means fewer will try to do so.

“I think it’s a really calming experience for a lot of travelers to see canine agents working in these different areas,” Stevens said.

And of course, some TSA security measures are not made public.

Yet TSA’s security process has even more layers that the public is unaware of and that are designed to keep passengers safe. The TSA says September 11 is its constant reminder and motivation to make every day safer than the last.

“As technology advances, we also advance,” Krenz said, “and we’re very nimble and always changing the way we look because the threat is constantly evolving. “

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