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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Thanks to TSA, nation now safer

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In light of the editorial regarding the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and holiday travel ("No thanks to TSA," Comment & Analysis, Nov. 28), perhaps it would be useful to share some information with your readers about TSA's work making transportation security as safe and efficient as possible using a risk-based, intelligence-driven approach.

The country's aviation system is safer, stronger and more secure than it was 10 years ago, and the employees of TSA are on the front lines every day protecting the traveling public. In the past decade, TSA has developed a highly trained federal workforce that has safely screened more than five billion passengers and established a multi-layered security system reaching from curb to cockpit.

We see the effectiveness of these security measures every day. In fact, TSA officers prevented more than 1,100 guns from being brought onto passenger aircraft this year alone. Just last week, we detected 16 loaded firearms nationwide. Two weeks ago, officers in Newark, N.J., caught a passenger with a knife disguised as a credit card, which was hidden in a wallet and stuffed in the passenger's luggage.

TSA officers are better trained, better equipped and better able to tap into a national network of intelligence than private-sector predecessors. One in four officers come to us with military experience, having accepted the opportunity to serve the nation they love in a civilian capacity. Compared to the pre-Sept. 11 security screeners, who averaged just three months on the job, most TSA officers have been with the agency for more than five years. Our officers are proud to work for TSA and our attrition is at an all-time low.

However, we also recognize that while we must carefully secure airports and airplanes, the overwhelming majority of the nearly 2 million passengers screened each day pose little risk to aviation. That is why we are advancing a number of intelligence-driven programs to focus more on high-risk passengers, putting a greater emphasis where it belongs. At the same time, we are using the most advanced technology available to detect nonmetallic weapons and explosives while ensuring individual passenger privacy is protected.

The TSA will continue to move away from a one-size-fits-all approach while improving the traveler experience whenever possible to ensure passengers arrive at their destinations safely.

KAWIKA RILEY

TSA spokesman

Arlington

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