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TSA clarifies airport 'opt-out' rules

L.M. Clayton Airport

The Transportation Security Administration is still taking applications from airports looking to shift over to private security screeners, but those applications probably aren’t going anywhere, the agency explained.

In a Feb. 7 posting on its Web blog, TSA sought to clarify facts in the face of recent news reports about the program that allows airports to hire their own TSA-approved private security screeners. “TSA is still accepting applications, but unless a clear and substantial advantage to do so emerges in the future, the requests will not be approved,” said the post. “The 16 airports that are currently using contractor screening will continue to operate under TSA regulation just as they have been,” it said.

TSA Administration John Pistole said in a Jan. 28 memo, he would not expand the agency’s Secure Partnership Plan (SSP) beyond the current 16 airports that currently use it, adding he didn’t see advantages to the program. The SSP allowed airports to hire private screening companies and avoid using TSA’s security officers, as long as the private company was approved by the TSA.

The blog post also listed the 16 airports that will continue to use private screeners. They include seven airports in Montana: Dawson Community Airport; Frank Wiley Field; Havre City County Airport; L.M. Clayton Airport; Lewistown Municipal Airport; Sidney Richland Regional; and Wokal Field.

The other nine airports, which are scattered around the U.S., include: Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport in California; Greater Rochester International in New York;; Jackson Hole in Wyoming; Joe Foss Field – also known as Sioux Falls Regional Airport in South Dakota; Kansas City International in Missouri; Key West International Airport in Florida; Roswell International Air Center in New Mexico; San Francisco International; and Tupelo Regional in Mississippi.