The day before the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, federal investigators fanned out across the country, examining the FAA's efforts to improve security at airport checkpoints, reports CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales.
A review of government records reveals the checkpoints, generally manned by poorly trained, underpaid workers, are just one gaping hole in America's airport security system.
"Our security is very, very sloppy, not because the systems aren't there, but because we don't use them. People aren't security aware," Aviation security expert Michael Boyd told CBS News.
CBS News has learned that the two airlines involved in Tuesday's terrorist attack have been cited repeatedly for security violations. In the last six months of 2000, American Airlines was fined more than $400,000 for 49 incidents. United Airlines was fined $356,000 for 38 incidents. Delta was even worse, fined more than $600,000.
In July, the FAA proposed fining American an additional $99,000 for security violations at several airports, including Boston's Logan airport, where two of Tuesday's doomed flights originated.
The American jet that crashed into the Pentagon took off from Dulles, and as at many airports, security for that flight was contracted to an outside company, in this case Argenbright Holdings.
In May, the company was fined more than $1.5 million dollars after investigators found they put poorly trained personnel at checkpoints in Philadelphia, and even hired convicted drug dealers and kidnappers. Company officials refused to discuss the charges with CBS News.
After a series of security breaches at Los Angeles International Airport, reporter Joel Grover of KCBS-TV went undercover in 1999, and found it wasn't just possible to get a weapon onto an airplane, it was easy. Security staff failed to check passengers properly. A producer, posing as a traveler in a wheelchair, was pushed around metal detectors and not adequately inspected.
Airline documents show screeners at the United terminal repeatedly failed to detect fake weapons which officials smuggled through checkpoints.
Los Angeles officials claim the problems were fixed but experts say that's not enough.
"When a security checker misses an encapsulated pistol or some other test, you fire them. You don't retrain them," said Boyd. "This is security. It's my life and yours."
As a result of Tuesday's attack, the FAA will take a greater role in airport safety, by directly regulating security companies, which is not the case now.
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