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Airline Pilots Allowed To Dodge Security Screening 285

Posted by Soulskill
from the dramatis-personae-for-the-security-theatre dept.
OverTheGeicoE writes "Wired has a story about TSA's known crewmember program, which allows airline pilots to bypass traditional airport security on their way to the cockpit. Pilots will be verified using a system known as CrewPASS that relies on uniforms, identity cards, fingerprints, and possibly other biometrics to authenticate flight deck crews. Once they are authenticated, they can enter secure areas in airports without any further screening. Participation at present is voluntary, and applies at Baltimore/Washington (BWI), Pittsburg (PIT), Columbia (CAE) and now Chicago O'Hare (ORD) airports. TSA is hoping to expand the program nationally. Bruce Schneier thinks this program is 'a really bad idea.' Pilots are already avoiding scanners and patdowns at security checkpoints (video). Is the new program just a way for TSA to hide this fact from the flying public?"
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Airline Pilots Allowed To Dodge Security Screening

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  • by FunkSoulBrother (140893) on Friday August 12, 2011 @06:28PM (#37074694)

    Couldn't a pilot who's convinced to pull off a terrorist attack just, well -- do it? They are at the controls and all...

    • by tverbeek (457094)

      He just might have to kill off the rest of the flight crew to pull it off. Kind of like you-know-who did you-know-when?

      • by danceswithtrees (968154) on Friday August 12, 2011 @06:47PM (#37074900)

        Can't they carry guns in the cockpit?
        http://www.tsa.gov/lawenforcement/programs/ffdo.shtm [tsa.gov]

        The guns are meant to be used against "bad guys" but they work just as well on pilots, co-pilots, etc. Once the rest of the crew is dead, and the door is already secured, fly the plane into whatever you want. No need for box cutters. Profit (just kidding).

      • by Chris Burke (6130) on Friday August 12, 2011 @06:47PM (#37074908) Homepage

        Kind of like you-know-who did you-know-when?

        No, I don't know when Voldemort took over an airplane!

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Kind of like you-know-who did you-know-when?

          No, I don't know when Voldemort took over an airplane!

          No, you fools got it all wrong! Motherfuckin' Snapes on a Plane!

      • But with the new cockpit doors, the rest of the place has no access to the pilots. Right?

        • by sabri (584428) *
          Theoretically no, practically yes. Remember the Helios flight that went down in Athens? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helios_Airways_Flight_522) One of the flight attendants (but licensed as a pilot) was locked out of the cockpit but eventually found a way in. Besides that, if a bad guy carries a weapon on board of an airplane, it is pretty easy to take the captains favorite stewardess hostage and force him to open the door. Yes, you may have regulations prohibiting the captain from doing so, but ultimate
          • by Opportunist (166417) on Friday August 12, 2011 @07:21PM (#37075274)

            Captains don't tend to be dumb. Keep the door shut, stewardess dies. Open the door, everyone dies. Either way the stewardess dies. You can't really blackmail someone if you don't have anything to offer.

            • by Ihmhi (1206036)

              Honestly, if Terrorists blew a hole in the side of the plane and killed half the passengers but the captain still managed to land it safely, he wouldn't really have all that much to worry about. All he has to say is he was trying to prevent another 9/11 and he'd get off the hook, and he'd be right. Whoever's in the back is a small number in comparison to how many people could potentially be hurt or killed by the plane being rammed into a building or heavily populated area.

      • Yes. And if he at least goes through screening, the TSA can make sure he isn't carrying any weapons he could use to do that with before they hand him his pistol back on the other side!

        Or he could just use said pistol... let's just hope nobody thinks of that. ;)
        • by whoever57 (658626)

          the TSA can make sure he isn't carrying any weapons he could use to do that with before they hand him his pistol back on the other side!

          Or, the pilots could be required to not carry anything through security that passengers cannot carry and are issued a gun at some point after they go through security. They return the gun at the end of their flight. There would be some security infrastructure regarding the inventory of guns, but perhaps it would be less than required to correctly "id" the pilots.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        No they wouldn't. There are a lot of ways. here is one less imaginary way:
        Co-pilot goes to take a leak,or pilot just point to nos straight up. no one getting into the cabin then.

        • by JustNiz (692889)

          >> just point to nos straight up.

          Which would last for about for about 15 seconds... then the aircraft hard stalls, the nose goes straight down and every stewardess and trolley ends up in a mangled heap in the cockpit.

    • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Friday August 12, 2011 @06:35PM (#37074798)

      The issue is whether a terrorist can impersonate a pilot long enough to bypass the screening process.

      Once you introduce multiple avenues for clearance, you introduce vulnerabilities.

      • by sjames (1099)

        If he can do that, why not just keep on impersonating, then crash the plane?

        • by khasim (1285)

          If he can do that, why not just keep on impersonating, then crash the plane?

          Hi! I'm Captain Jack! You probably didn't know that I was scheduled to fly this airplane what with you and the co-pilot being employed by the airline. But trust me. See my uniform? Obviously I'm a pilot and this is a plane and so forth. So don't bother calling security that there's some weird guy in a pilot's uniform trying to talk you out of the cockpit. Just give me the controls and I'll take over. You can have yourself a nice rel

          • Re:Really? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by aix tom (902140) on Friday August 12, 2011 @07:12PM (#37075180)

            Hey, now I have figured it all out. The terrorist have just changed tactics:

            They started impersonating TSA agents a few years back without anybody noticing. After all, those are the ones terrorizing people these days.

          • by sjames (1099)

            What?!? There must be some kind of screw-up, let's see. Here it is, right on the schedule [PUNCH]!

            Or get there early and just take the plane. The fighters probably can't scramble fast enough to stop it before it reaches the nearest downtown area.

            Or, as was found in one airport, dispense with the whole thing and just jiggle the doorknob to the security area.

            • Talk to anyone who flies regularly. They'll explain the situation to you.

              • by sjames (1099)

                I don't need to, I talked to the people nobody notices who vacuum the planes out before the flight.

          • Hi! I'm Captain Jack!

            Hi, Jack!

      • The issue is whether a terrorist can impersonate a pilot long enough to bypass the screening process.

        Once you introduce multiple avenues for clearance, you introduce vulnerabilities.

        That's the thought in TFA. While true, for it to be a useful one has to posit that the TSA is at all competent in screening out the baddies. That's demonstrably false. Further, there is nothing in the current screening system that would prevent a 'fake' pilot to get into the secure area. He / She couldn't carry a bomb, but if they had the appropriately forged credentials they could carry a firearm. You can carry incendiary bullets in a .38 caliber pistol although I doubt they would do all that much.

        Th

        • You don't have to get on the plane; you can just carry weapons/drugs/whatever to a stash on the other side for pickup by a regular passenger.
          • by tftp (111690)

            You don't have to get on the plane; you can just carry weapons/drugs/whatever to a stash on the other side

            If that's what you want then you don't need to bother with a fairly exclusive club of pilots. Instead one of your people gets a lowly tech job as a baggage handler, for example, or fuel truck driver, or just as a sales clerk at the Pizza joint inside the secure area of the terminal. Those jobs are dime a dozen, and nobody will notice the new guy.

            Once you have your man on the inside many possibiliti

      • by tompaulco (629533)
        This should be launched in conjunction with the program where terrorists are required to wear badges and identification identifying them as terrorists. Then if they came in with the pilots badge, and also had a terrorists badge, the TSA could go "Aha! Caught you!" and make them go to the back of the line.
      • The rest of the screening is stupid. The reason is that the pilot has hands on the controls and can crash the plane, if they wish. What's more they can get a license to have a gun in the cockpit, and many do because you get a pay bonus. So a pilot can kill everyone on board if they wish, you HAVE to trust them.

        That means there's no point in screening them for weapons and so on, because who cares? It is a waste of time. All you need to do is screen their identity. Make sure that the person is who they claim

        • The reason is that the pilot has hands on the controls and can crash the plane, if they wish.

          And that's the logical failure of your argument. You hear "pilot" and you think "has hands on the controls".

          Meanwhile, a terrorist can impersonate a pilot to get through security (or get licensed by a small airline) and move multiple bombs through security to hand off to other terrorists on other flights.

          The TSA introduces 1 weakness into the system and now every single flight is more vulnerable.

          All you need to do

    • Note the angry tone, echoed by the Headline. Pilots allowed to "Dodge" security. And how did they slip through? By having biometricial data and special identification. Oh! The unfairness! Don't let a pilot hit a retinal viewer connected to the national database and move on to his seat in the plane he is assigned to fly. Make him stand in line in front of me and make him boot his laptop!
      • by rickb928 (945187)

        I wouldn't mind if they jumped line and went through security ahead of me. after all, I need a pilot to get where I'm going. or the family next to me does.

        But avoiding any screening at all defeats at the very least the sniffers and x-ray machines I get to put my laptop and cell phone through. Am I really that much more likely to try and sneak something bad onboard than a pilot? I look exactly like a pilot, minus a uniform I can steal from a dry cleaner every day the week and twice on Saturday. I can get

        • by tompaulco (629533)
          This is sort or reminiscent of how everybody who is involved with HIPAA has to take pee tests...except doctors. Somehow they are above the law. Oh, some hospitals require them to take pee tests, but there is no general requirement.
          Of course, various studies have shown that 8-15% of doctors have substance abuse problems, so they would flunk a pee test. Rather than suffer the embarrassment of making them flunk the pee test, we just don't make them do it.
      • Security, meatspace or computer based, is a game of minimums. The weakest link defines it. Not the average, not the best part. The weakest link is the definition of how secure your system is. If you build a castle with three walls and leave the fourth side wide open, take a wild guess where the enemy will attack from.

        The more sides you have, read: the more angles of attack exists, the more hassle it becomes to keep things secure. Even things that supposedly create more security can actually lower security.

        • by geekoid (135745)

          The change s a stronger link then the current situation.

          A) Background checked
          B) Monitored
          C) Recognized by co-workers
          D) Biometricly screened when the get on board.
          E) history of work.

          If all passengers where that thoroughly screened, then customers could also just use the bio-metric scanners and be safer then they are now.

          • Again, security is a minimum game. The combined security of two systems is always lower than the security of a single system, unless at least one of the two combined systems is 100% secure. And that is simply not possible.

            That the current system is worse actually only means that it would be more sensible to put crew through the same security system as the rest of the passengers.

    • by Chris Burke (6130)

      Couldn't a pilot who's convinced to pull off a terrorist attack just, well -- do it? They are at the controls and all...

      Yes, this is absolutely retarded to complain about, and I say that as someone who complains about the TSA all the time.

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      That is not the problem.

      The issue is Mr. Terrorist could rent/steal/make a pilots uniform and get through the checkpoint then change into his terrorizing clothes before his flight.

    • by Ieshan (409693) <ieshan @ g m ail.com> on Friday August 12, 2011 @07:02PM (#37075068) Homepage Journal

      The problem is not really preventing pilots from carrying guns on planes. It's preventing people who look like pilots from being given special security breaks and dealing with the costs associated with preventing that while reaping only minimal gains from not scanning pilots.

      This essay: https://www.schneier.com/essay-130.html [schneier.com] by Schneier does a fantastic job at explaining the problem. The basic synopsis is:
      1) Security is a system, and for all the easy changes you make ("Let's not screen pilots, that makes no sense!"), you actually need to build tons of other systems (Databases to validate pilot IDs, training for security personnel to access those databases, hard to forge ID cards to identify pilots, etc).
      2) Because of those things you didn't think of in (1), and because security is a zero-sum game, all the dollars you spend building security systems to deal with pilots and all the minutes that you save not screening them could have been spent doing more impactful things that make everyone safer and reduce time at the security checkpoint for less money.

      Basically, with limited resources and the hidden costs of not scanning pilots, is it worth it to not scan pilots? Probably not.

      • And you left one thing off.

        Basically, with limited resources and the hidden costs of not scanning pilots, is it worth it to not scan pilots? Probably not.

        And the consequences of FAILING with a false positive (terrorist mistaken for authorized pilot).

        I think the problem here is the same as with the TSA in general.
        People hear "pilot" and they think "person flying the plane".
        Which assumes 100% verification of every pilot, every time, at every location. Including 100% verification of NON-pilots.

        Once you get pas

        • by Alomex (148003)

          And the consequences of FAILING with a false positive (terrorist mistaken for authorized pilot).

          How about the costs of scanning them. Say they are improperly rushed through because they need to get to their plane? How about instead developing a system to preclear trusted people, which we deploy first with pilots, then flight attendants, then certain trusted members of the population?

          Wouldn't work you say? That's what they do in Israel.

          • Say they are improperly rushed through because they need to get to their plane?

            That's basically what this CrewPass thing does.

            Wouldn't work you say? That's what they do in Israel.

            Really? I'd like to see a cite for exactly how they do it, I suspect you are glossing the details. But you know what? Even if true and pilots in Israeli don't get searched there it isn't likely to be feasible here. All of the Israeli airports combined do about the same number of passengers per year as O'Hare does alone in 4 months. The scale of the comparison isn't even close.

        • by amiga3D (567632)

          Really if the terrorist can impersonate a pilot he has no need for a weapon at all. As we saw on 911, the aircraft IS the weapon. It's silly to bother checking the guy you're handing the plane to for weapons. Concentrate instead on making sure you're handing the plane off to the right guy.

      • by Alomex (148003)

        This essay is Oh so wrong. Schneier is smart but not always right.

        We do not have the resources to properly scan everyone, so we end up doing a very shoddy and useless job. If instead we had some very good one way filters with no false negatives then we can spend substantially more resources on the truly suspicious cases.

        Don't take my word, compare with the best security system in the world, the one with the most threats and the least attacks: the Israeli security system. They do not scan every one.

      • by Mr 44 (180750)

        The other systems (databse & biometrics) are already built and in place, Bruce Schneier just doesn't know about them (he's a mathematician, not an airport security expert).

        See http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2011/08/counterfeit_pil.html#c569857 [schneier.com] and the same commenter's post 2 down.

    • It's not very egalitarian. One set of rules for royalty and certain classes of people, the rest of us peasants have to strip down (virtually of course) and get molested.

      If the pilots don't like this idiocy at the gate, then they should stand with us and do something about it. The uber-wealthy elites with their private jets are already exempt unless I'm mistaken. Pilots are getting a pass now. Airline personnel and anyone else who has a strong interest in real, efficient security will too. They're no
    • by Virtucon (127420)

      It has already been done. There was the EgyptAir Flight 990.. EgyptAir Flight 990.. [wikipedia.org]
      From the transcript of the cockpit voice recorder. [twf.org]

      0150:05.89 I rely on God.

      0150:06.37 what's happening? what's happening?

      0150:07.07 I rely on God.

      0150:07.11 [sound of numerous thumps and clinks continue for approximately fifteen seconds]

      0150:08.20 [repeating hi-low tone similar to Master Warning aural start and continues to the end of recording]

      0150:08.48 I rely on God.

      0150:08.53 what's happening?

      0150:15.15 what's happening, Gamil? what's happening?

      Ultimately you have to be able to trust the people on the flight deck. That didn't do the people on Air France Flight 447 [telegraph.co.uk]. Considering that NTSB investigations put most of the blame on pilot error [planecrashinfo.com], they ultimately have the responsibility for your safety. What sense does it make to run them through a nudeo-scan 5000 or a metal detector at all? there's also hundreds of

  • 1. Compromise the pilot via blackmail, family hostages, etc
    2. Profit!

    Of course the pilot is flying a big bomb, so they don't have to bring a weapon with them through security if they want to do damage. There's no real reason to screen them...so maybe this -is- a good idea after all. Hey, wait!

    • by v1 (525388)

      1. Compromise the pilot via blackmail, family hostages, etc

      That's useful to steal documents or overlook something. Not so useful to fly airplanes into buildings. What makes these nuts dangerous is not only are they not afraid to die, they're committed to certain death. That takes it up a notch and completely bypasses numerous assumed limitations.

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        You don't need the pilot to be willing to die. Just to be willing to move some packages into the secure area where you the terrorist nutjob take them onto a different flight.

    • 'The Event'" on NBC last year

  • by nitrogensixteen (812667) on Friday August 12, 2011 @06:34PM (#37074780)
    Send them through a breathalyzer-only checkpoint and you will have satisfied me.
  • Oh no! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Manip (656104)
    But what if the pilot got hold of a weapon they could use to hurt people! Like an aircraft for example... Oh wait....
  • Simple theater (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 12, 2011 @06:58PM (#37075044)

    I work at an international airport. There's only one gate between the street and the runway. The 'guards' routinely flag us through from over 100 feet away if we so much as hold up something that looks remotely like it might be a badge. I've held up credit cards, library cards, and once, the Queen of Diamonds. So why in the hell should I submit to a full body X-ray operated by someone without a medical degree, or submit to sexual molestation if I refuse that? Is that supposed to make me feel safe?

  • is that if security is equally inconvenient, more consideration will be placed on it's effectiveness, and efficiency. That why I think lawyers and judges should have to wait in line to get into the court house.

    • by amiga3D (567632)

      The judges are already overworked. We don't need them wasting time in line. The lawyers on the other hand......

  • Does El Al screen their pilots?

  • by JustNiz (692889)

    Why am I apparently the only one that is happy that that the TSA are finally starting to back off a little?
    I'm looking forward to the day when the TSA go away entirely and flying goes back to being as easy as pre 9/11 days.
    I mean how many actual terrorist attempts (even failed ones) on aircraft have there been since 9/11 compared to the number of flights that happen daily? If not actually 0, its so small as to be statistically insignificant risk per flight. Isn't the continued perceived threat of terror com

    • They're not backing off. They are removing the only people from the list of "those who get pestered by them" who could sensibly debunk the whole theater.

      Face it: Pilots know how airport security works. Pilots and everyone working at airports will all tell you the same story: The whole security theater is a big machinery to create jobs and revenue for companies that have good ties with certain parts of the political circus. You DO NOT want to piss those people off with the same security theater that they cou

    • I agree with all of your arguments, but not your conclusion.

      In a nutshell, the more people pissed off at TSA, the more likely it is that they will eventually go away. To me, this looks like "divide and conquer", not "the first of many concessions to common sense."
  • by sunfly (1248694) on Friday August 12, 2011 @07:14PM (#37075204)

    Airline crews are limited to flight hours as a means to limit the radiation they receive to stay under OSHA limits. It is one of the careers that receive relatively high doses over their careers. Doses are cumulative (think about how people develop skin cancer supposedly from sun burns as a child).

    For these reasons pilots try to avoid even small doses of radiation where they can, and walking through a body scanner several times every day they work over several years would add up.

    Examples of industries with significant occupational radiation exposure:

    • - Airline crew (the most exposed population)
    • - Industrial radiography
    • - Medical radiology and nuclear medicine
    • - Uranium mining
    • - Nuclear power plant and nuclear fuel reprocessing plant workers
    • - Research laboratories (government, university and private)

    http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/53939/radiation-exposure/ [theenergycollective.com]

  • You're telling me that the guy who determines whether the airplane stays in the air or not might be carrying a weapon? SCARY!

  • by geogob (569250) on Friday August 12, 2011 @08:13PM (#37075810)

    I guess they are considered like all other airport employees having security clearances and working behind the TSA security veil... There are thousands of people going in and out of the "secure" areas every day in any airports through the world each day without seeing such security screening.

    They do simple background checks on these employees. I can't see any reason to threat crew differently.

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