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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of Oct 30 - Nov 5, 2002


Federal employees begin airport baggage checks

Express Staff Writer

As part of a nationwide mandate, baggage-screening responsibilities at Friedman Memorial Airport were taken over by the federal government Monday.

A temporary team of about 20 Transportation Security Administration employees, most from Idaho Falls, will be on duty until a permanent team takes over in two to three weeks, said the group’s supervisor, Parris Sepe. After completing their federal training, the permanent team will be composed mostly of the Skywest employees who had been doing baggage screening at the airport. Sepe said eight or nine screeners will be on duty at a time, about the same as before.

Baggage screening at the Twin Falls airport will come under federal purview beginning Monday.

In an effort to standardize screening procedures nationwide, the Aviation and Transportation Security Act requires baggage screening at every U.S. airport to be under federal control by Nov. 19.

"We will meet that deadline," Sepe said. "We’re getting into the small- and medium-sized airports at about 100 (airports) per week."

Only carry-on luggage is now being screened at Friedman and other airports. However, the TSA has a deadline of Dec. 31 to be screening all checked baggage. Sepe said that means X-ray machines will be installed for that purpose at large airports, though smaller airports such as Friedman will probably use only explosive detectors. He said some luggage would also be inspected by hand.

Sepe said the TSA has received 1.5 million applications for baggage screening positions nationwide.

Federal screeners have intercepted more than 3 million prohibited items, including 800 guns, from boarding passengers since they began work last spring. However, Sepe said, there is no evidence that any of those items were intended to be used for a terrorist act.

Overall security at Friedman remains under the jurisdiction of the Hailey Police Department. Federal law requires an officer to be on duty whenever passengers are boarding and screening is taking place.



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