10 years after 9/11, what's next for airport security? - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

10 years after 9/11, what's next for airport security?

(WMC-TV) - Memphis International Airport is a different place after the September 11, 2001.

Within weeks of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the government created the Transportation Security Administration.

"TSA owes its existence to a single event in our nation's history, those terrorist attacks," said Kevin McCarthy with TSA Memphis.

Ten years later, Memphis International Airport is equipped with the most state of the art security equipment the TSA has to offer.

"We now utilize advanced technology, improved procedures and an intelligence-based, layered approach to security," said McCarthy.

More layers were added in response to new security threats.  In December of 2001, a failed shoe bomb attack on a plane led to the subsequent removal and screening of passenger's shoes.  In April of 2002, new x-ray machines were added to screen bags for explosives.

"One hundred percent of all baggage is checked using that procedure," said McCarthy.

Liquid explosive found on board a flight from the UK to the US in 2006 are the reason you must limit the amount of liquid you bring on board.  Advanced x-ray technology at the checkpoint was added to give agents a better look into carry on items.

The added security has not been without flaws, complaints and controversy.

In April, Kathleen Beard made it onto a plane in Memphis with someone else's expired boarding pass.  In May, a Memphis passenger was detained when her fake fingernails set off an alarm for trace explosives during a random hand swab.

Last year, a food stylist was removed from a plane for finger tattoos after his Memphis connection.

The recent addition of full body x-ray machines set off a debate about privacy, but McCarthy said public outcry is down to a whisper.

"Only about one or two percent of passengers decide to opt out of that procedure, so it's been successful," he said.

The size of full body scanners forced Memphis International Airport to scale down to a four lane checkpoint system.  An $11 million renovation is in progress that will allow the airport to expand to six security checkpoint lanes in a few months, with room for further expansion.

"I think our record proves itself," said McCarthy.  "In the last 10 years, there has not been a successful terrorist attack on this nation."

On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, McCarthy said there are no plans to heighten security at Memphis International or any other airport.

"Every day, we use a layered approach to security," he said.  "We have random and unpredictable screening processes that we follow, 9/11 is going to be no different."

The TSA is testing a new procedure that would expand their behavior detection program.  Agents will be trained to see if passengers are a security risk by engaging them in a conversation.  It could be in place by this fall.

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