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CATSA to review screening procedures

The head of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority says the organization needs to re-invent the way it does screening at Canada’s airports.



December 20, 2006
By Jennifer Brown


Topics

“We have to decide whether we’re fishermen or hunters? We need to
hunt the bad guys,” said Jacques Duchesneau, president and chief
executive officer of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority,
speaking at the Conference Board of Canada’s Global Approaches to
Security and Technology Strategies conference Nov. 29 in Ottawa.

“Most passengers do not represent a threat. If we have the right intelligence we can focus on the right people,” he said.

CATSA has 4,500 screeners in 89 airports across Canada screening 39
million people a year. Four years ago, Duchesneau said CATSA was
intercepting one million prohibited items a year — that is now down to
600,000 a year, primarily due to giving people better information.

Other countries, such as Israel, focus more on observation screening
techniques in addition to object screening — so less focus on things such as scissors and cigarette lighters and more on passenger behaviour.

Duchesneau said he is following how that kind of additional screening
could improve the aviation security system in Canada.
The program known as Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques
(SPOT) has been tested over the last three years at several airports in
the Northeast, including Boston’s Logan Airport, where two of the 9/11
hijacking teams launched their operations.

During his presentation, Duchesneau also talked about the importance of
continually training frontline workers to their full potential.

“It’s a key layer to security and we need to create better career
opportunities for security screeners. We need to continually assess and
know what is coming our way. We need to enhance the layers of security
to guard air travellers and airplanes and we have to be a
high-reliability organization capable of intervening quickly in the
event of an incident affecting security,” he said.

CATSA has introduced new tools to assist screeners, such as X-ray
Tutor, meant to enhance the ability to identify baggage
containing threat items at pre-board screening as well as Threat Image
Projection Systems to keep screening officers alert by injecting threat
items into baggage as they pass through the X-ray in real time.

They
also use break exercises to hone the ability of officers to react to a
possible breach and reduce recuperating time.

“Whatever system we put in place, we know the terrorists are going to
try and get around it,” said
Duchesneau.

Duchesneau pointed out that when incidents occur, such as the event
earlier this year that involved explosives hidden in gels, the air
transport industry must figure out how to manage new restrictions
efficiently, and move on so as not to disrupt the air travel system too extensively.
The transatlantic aircraft plot that was revealed in August was an
alleged terrorist plot to detonate liquid explosives carried on board
several airliners travelling from the United Kingdom to the United
States.
Duchesneau pointed out that the first attack using a gel substance was
in 1976 when a Cuban airliner was brought down and the explosive was
hidden in toothpaste.

Some of the new screening options CATSA is considering include
screening by appointment for trusted travellers and offering them valet parking as a perk.
“You need other things to entice people other than just going through
security quickly. We have to look at what’s in it for the customer,” he
said. “Give us a year or so and we’ll come up with something.”


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