Saturday, November 17, 2001

An airport-security firm with screeners at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport has been cited dozens of times over the past two years for serious security lapses that include some post-September 11 incidents.
Cleveland-based International Total Services Inc. (ITS) has a contract with US Airways and has roughly 150 employees at Reagan Airport. The company will continue screenings for the next nine to 12 months until federal workers take over as part of the airline-security bill Congress passed yesterday.
ITS is the second-largest airport-security company in the country and provides screening services at more than 100 airports in 34 states.
But the company or the airlines that hired them have been fined close to $4 million during the past two years because of security breaches and damage to aircraft, according to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records and officials. Between March 31 of last year and this year, ITS paid more than $1.85 million to the FAA.
In 1999, ITS paid more than $1.76 million in fines, most of it for dozens of security breaches.
Just four days after the terrorist attacks, ITS screeners let someone without a ticket into the international passenger terminal at Honolulu International Airport, a violation of FAA regulations. ITS was fined $35,000 for the lapse.
At other airports, the company’s screeners have allowed banned items such as knives and box cutters to get through.
Former ITS employees also said that wheelchairs with inert grenades attached to them were allowed through during seven company spot checks of security, according to a September article in Hawaii’s Star-Bulletin newspaper.
The company lost a $7.4 million contract with the Dallas-Fort Worth airport this year because of its poor record.
But under the airline-security bill, ITS would be eligible to bid for contracts in the future. After three years of federally regulated screenings, airports can opt out and hire government-certified private-security firms.
ITS, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Sept. 14, did not respond to repeated requests for comment. Company President Mark D. Thompson said in a statement issued after its Sept. 14 bankruptcy filing that ITS planned to continue operations despite its financial woes, which he said were not related to the September 11 attacks.
Brantley Partners, an investment company, and Service Management Systems Inc., a provider of security for malls and offices, are in negotiations to take over ITS.
Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican, said he did not know of ITS’ infractions, but doubted any airports would hire private companies after federalization.
“My sense is that once [security] is federalized at Reagan, it will continue to be federalized,” Mr. Wolf said.
Other private firms, Argenbright Security Inc. and Globe Security Inc., currently have screeners at Reagan Airport.
Mary Schiavo, a former inspector general for the Department of Transportation and now an aviation-disaster lawyer, said passengers should not expect much change in security anytime soon.
“The security that we had last year will be the same security we have next week,” she said.

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