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Top Official Questions TSA Pre-Check Protocol Following CBS2 Investigation

NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) -- On Tuesday night, a potentially serious security threat was exposed at airports in the New York area.

As CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported, some passengers have been able to skirt routine security measures before their flights.

On Wednesday, the exclusive investigation prompted a call for action.

"The TSA they really have to tighten up. There is no doubt about it," Rep. Peter King (R-New York), said.

King is on the Homeland Security Committee and said that he has concerns over who the Transportation Security Administration is ushering through expedited airport security lines.

"It's definitely concerning. It's not something to panic over, but all you need is one person to get on a plane carrying a device or being trained for a terrorist attack," King said.

In a post 9-11 New York many were shocked to learn that CBS2 found travelers getting on airplanes without all the security rituals that we have come to trust.

"I didn't have the screening that the others did and walked right in," Eileen Gorkin said.

It's happened at all three of our major airports. Passengers without background checks have been whicked through the same lines reserved for pre-screened travelers who are part of the TSA's pre-check program.

Nearly 700,000 passengers have signed up for pre-check. They've all undergone background checks, been fingerprinted, and paid $85 for the privilege of going through the hassle-free fast lane at airport security where jackets, belts, and shoes stay on, and laptops and liquids stay packed.

But those pre-check lines have been observed to be flooded with passengers who have not been pre-checked.

TSA officers have been seen merging all lines into one, herding entire lines of people who have not been pre-screened through limited security, they only go through the metal detector.

"Almost every time I've been through pre-check at JFK the lines have merged. I've actually asked what's going on and they say it's for expediency sake," one traveler said.

Passengers have seen it at LaGuardia and Newark too.

"They just let everybody into the line," one woman said.

When asked about their security procedures TSA agents said that they merge lines to keep them moving.

The TSA disputed that passengers were merged in large numbers and said that most passengers are 'low risk' security is now 'intelligence driven' and that only 'eligible passengers' are sent to the TSA pre-check line based on multiple layers of security.

Those layers of security include behavior detection officers, explosive trace detectors, and sometimes canine teams, the TSA said.

"If you do it in large numbers it defeats the whole purpose of pre-check," King said.

Congressman King told CBS2 that his office has fielded similar complaints and worries that it could create a dangerous opportunity.

"We have heard of a number of instances where large groups of people are pushed through and that goes against the spirit of it and leaves us open," he said.

On Wednesday CBS2 asked the TSA to comment on camera and they refused. They did issue a new statement insisting that the randomness of their layers of security prevents anyone from gaming their system.

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