Source: Two of 10 panic buttons at LAX Terminal 3 were not working on Nov. 1

Police stand outside Terminal 3 at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday, Nov. 1, 2013.  (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

Police stand outside Terminal 3 at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday, Nov. 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

Two of 10 panic buttons at the Transportation Security Administration checkpoint at Terminal 3 of Los Angeles International Airport were not working on Nov. 1, though that discrepancy probably had no effect on police response, a law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation said Thursday.

The buttons are designed for an emergency. TSA workers are supposed to hit them when they are in danger to ensure a rapid police response. But the law enforcement official said data shows TSA officials failed to hit any of the eight working buttons, probably because they were fleeing the area so quickly. That may suggest nothing would have changed had the two other buttons been operational.

On Nov. 1 at around 9 a.m., police say that gunman Paul Ciancia entered the terminal and started firing at TSA agents near the checkpoint. He is accused of killing TSA screener Gerardo Hernandez and wounding three others. Federal prosecutors are now deciding whether to seek the death penalty against him.

The law enforcement source said TSA agents were aware that at least one of the buttons was not working at the time of the incident. The second one did not work when it was tested after the incident.

A TSA supervisor did use a special phone line to ring directly to an airport police dispatcher, the source said. The phone call was brief, as the caller quickly fled to escape the gunman, according to the source.

Reached Thursday, Los Angeles-based TSA spokesman Nico Melendez said he could not comment on an ongoing investigation.

LAX is expected to produce an after-action report soon. The public will be able to read it, but it will not include what is called “security sensitive” information.

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LAX: to make connections easier, American and US Airways will operate shuttle bus inside security

US Airways is expecting to move to Terminal 3 at Los Angeles International Airport next week, leaving Terminal 1, which it has shared with Southwest Airlines.

I’m being told that Feb. 12 is the targeted move date. I’ll update if that changes.

American Airlines, which is merging with US Airways, has printed up posters in an attempt to make things easier for travelers. Here’s the good news: American and US Airways will run shuttle buses inside the secure area of the airport to facilitate connections between the two airlines. This means passengers won’t have to re-clear security to switch airlines. The buses will leave every 20 minutes.

That’s a big deal, because American’s Terminal 4 and US Airways’ Terminal 3 are not particularly close to one another, despite the numbering scheme. There’s also no way to walk from one terminal to the other without re-clearing security.

Here are posters you’ll see soon at Terminal 3 and Terminal 4.

American-US Airways 2

American-US Airways 1

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Airport Security: Former TSA screener writes confessional in Politico Magazine

A former TSA screener in Chicago says the agency was not a great place to work. Photo: Associated Press.

A former TSA screener in Chicago says the agency was not a great place to work. Photo: Associated Press.

UPDATE: Politico published a piece Friday detailing the TSA response. “Every passenger deserves to be treated with dignity and respect and Transportation Security Administration policy upholds this standard. TSA does not tolerate any form of unethical or unlawful behavior by its employees and takes swift disciplinary action if discovered,” the agency said, apparently in a statement.

ORIGINAL POST: Politico Magazine this week published “Confessions Of A Former TSA Screener” – a tell-all piece by former Chicago O’Hare screener Jason Edward Harrington. And it’s ugly.

Harrington says everyone at the TSA knew right away that the full-body scanners introduced a few years ago didn’t work — “The only thing more absurd than how poorly the full-body scanners performed was the incredible amount of time the machines wasted for everyone” — and that the machines showed way to much of everyone’s bodies.

Many of the images we gawked at were of overweight people, their every fold and dimple on full awful display. Piercings of every kind were visible. Women who’d had mastectomies were easy to discern—their chests showed up on our screens as dull, pixelated regions. Hernias appeared as bulging, blistery growths in the crotch area.

Perhaps equally concerning, he says officers were told to give extra screening to passengers based on nationality. He said there was something called “the Selectee Passport List.”

It consisted of 12 nations that automatically triggered enhanced passenger screening. The training department drilled us on the selectee countries so regularly that I had memorized them, like a little poem:

Syria, Algeria, Afghanistan
Iraq, Iran, Yemen
and Cuba,
Lebanon-Libya, Somalia-Sudan
People’s Republic of North Korea.

Harrington says he’s the author of Taking Sense Away, a blog in which he made some of the same allegations, albeit anonymously.

 

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TSA to open precheck enrollment center at LAX Terminal 5

TSA will open a precheck enrollment center this week at LAX. Photo: Associated Press.

TSA will open a precheck enrollment center this week at LAX. Photo: Associated Press.

The Transportation Security Administration will open its first Precheck processing station at Los Angeles International Airport on Thursday, Jan. 30.

The application center will be located in Delta’s Terminal 5 in the gate area. TSA has had processing applications at three locations in the L.A. area for a couple of months now, but this is the first time travelers in the airport will have the opportunity to go through the process. Passengers on United, Delta and Alaska will be able to access the Terminal 5 application center. American Airlines passengers will not have access — at least until the airport reopens a tunnel connecting its terminal with Delta’s.

For those not familiar, TSA’s precheck program allows passengers to register for more humane airport security screening — so long as they pass a background check, provide fingerprints and pay $85 to join the program. Assuming you pass, you can keep your shoes on and keep your liquids and laptops in your bags.

Travelers can go through expedited security at just about every major airport in the country, including LAX, Long Beach Airport and Burbank Bob Hope Airport.

If you want to join, you’ll want to go to TSA.gov to fill out the pre-enrollment questionnaire. You can make an appointment for the background check on the website, or you can simply drop in at one of the enrollment centers. Eventually, TSA wants to have more than 300 processing centers.

Here are the other L.A.-are locations:

•             Carson, Calif.: Universal Enrollment Center/IdentoGO Center — 460 East Carson Plaza Drive, Suite 114

•             Glendale, Calif.: Universal Enrollment Center/IdentoGO Center — 603 South Brand Boulevard

•             Signal Hill, Calif.: Universal Enrollment Center/IdentoGO Center — 2501 East 28th Street, Suite 105

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Why do airlines bump passengers? And other great links from the past week.

TSA found more than 1,800 guns at checkpoints in 2013, according to the Washington Post. Photo: TSA

TSA found more than 1,800 guns at checkpoints in 2013, according to the Washington Post. Photo: TSA

Here are some of the most interesting stories I’ve read on the web in the past week or so:

Have you ever why airlines bump passengers?
Many of my most ardent readers might already know the economics behind bumping, but Brett Snyder of the Cranky Flier blog. Brett actually argues that overbooking is good for airlines and passengers. Do you agree?

There will be a glut of private jets in New Jersey for the Super Bowl — far more airplanes than Teterboro Airport — the most popular airfield — can handle. Forbes reports on what we might call “high class problems.”

American Airlines CEO Doug Parker wrote a letter to employees telling them exactly how much he will make in 2014 and why. It’s a base salary of $700,000 (less than peer CEOs make, he says) with assorted incentives and stock.

TSA recovered 1,813 guns last year at airport checkpoints. But don’t worry. Only 1,477 were loaded. The worst offending airports, according to the Washington Post: Atlanta (111 guns), Dallas (96), Houston (68), Phoenix (66) and Denver (51).

We’ve poked some fun at Modesto for wanting flights to Los Angeles so much that it has organized a pledge drive in which it asks local businesses to commit to buy plane tickets. But the Modesto Bee reports that the drive “gaining altitude.” So there.

And finally. How about this blast from the past, via Twitter.

 

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