- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 20, 2001

An airline-security company whose foreign employees are under federal investigation for working in secured airport spaces has been on probation since June in Illinois for failing to conduct background checks on its workers.
Argenbright Security Inc. of Atlanta, which provides security at Washington Dulles International Airport, among others, was placed on a one-year probation June 14 by the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation for failing to conduct background checks on 97 security guards, hiring six guards with defective background checks and 11 other guards whose licenses had expired.
Argenbright and its Illinois manager, Adam Campbell Jr., were fined a total of $20,000, and Campbell was placed on three years' probation.
The Washington Times reported yesterday that the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) have been investigating complaints about the use of non-U.S. citizens as baggage handlers and security screeners at Dulles.
The investigation was stepped up last week after terrorists hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 and crashed it into the Pentagon. The flight, which had 64 persons on board, originated at Dulles.
Persons lacking U.S. citizenship or resident-alien status are forbidden from secured areas of the airport, The Times reported.
In a statement yesterday, Argenbright officials said the inspector general's original statement about the investigation was incorrect. "It has now confirmed that non-U.S. citizens with resident-alien status or other INS employment authorization are allowed access to secure airport areas," the statement reads. "This is a policy to which all airline-related companies have been adhering.
"Argenbright is not responsible for issuing airport passes. Contacts at the DOT have confirmed that Argenbright is not the focus or the target of the investigation, and that it is actually the airport security office which issues airport passes," the statement reads.
David Barnes, a spokesman for the inspector general, said he could not confirm or deny whether Argenbright or the airport security office is the target of the investigation. A statement issued by the inspector general last week said it is investigating security screeners at Dulles.
Argenbright provides all of the passenger security and most of the baggage handling at Dulles. United Airlines, the largest airline flying from Dulles, hired Argenbright, which is one of the nation's largest airport-security companies. It provides security services at other airports around the country, including Newark International Airport in New Jersey and Boston's Logan International Airport.
Terrorists last week hijacked an airliner that originated at Newark and two that originated at Logan. The Newark airliner United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in western Pennsylvania, killing all 45 persons on board. American Airlines Flight 11, with 92 persons on board, and United Airlines Flight 175, with 65 persons on board both from Logan crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York.
Passengers and terrorists on American Airlines Flight 77 from Dulles went through Argenbright's security checkpoints. Argenbright also provided security at Newark and Boston, but passengers on the two hijacked flights out of Logan were not checked by Argenbright guards, the company said.
Argenbright was fined $1.2 million and placed on probation after pleading guilty in April 2000 to failing to conduct background checks of 1,300 security checkers between 1995 and 1999. The Federal Aviation Administration found that Argenbright hired convicted felons and did not properly train its employees.
Steve Saffer, Argenbright's former district manager, was sentenced to 30 month in prison for falsely certifying the checks were completed, and Sandra Lawrence, an Argenbright employee, was placed on 50 months' probation and fined $15,000.
Sara Jackson, an Argenbright spokeswoman in Atlanta, said Tuesday that, during the last year, the company has improved its management and now requires background checks on all employees. Miss Jackson yesterday referred all calls to Bryan Lott at Argenbright's Dulles office, who did not return repeated phone calls.
Argenbright has been fined, cited or placed on probation in three states during the last year. In addition, Northwest Airlines replaced Argenbright at Detroit Metro Airport after numerous security flaws forced the airport to be closed several times and aircraft evacuated.

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