Screeners working at Covenant Aviation Security say Mineta San Jose International Airport and other airports still employ the “manual slicing” function that has been disabled on SFO’s X-ray screening machines.
They say San Jose also assigns more screeners to each machine and grants them more time to examine bags — 45 seconds compared to just 15 to 20 at SFO. But six Covenant screeners alleged that the number of screeners assigned to each machine at SFO often falls short of what the TSA requires.
“I won’t fly out of SFO if I can fly out of San Jose,” one screener said.
Transportation Security Administration spokesman Nico Melendez said his agency doesn’t release details about its screening protocol or required machine-to-screener ratio and would not confirm whether San Jose operates differently. He said comparing machines and staffing levels at different airports is like “comparing apples and oranges,” since each airport has a different configuration.
However, identifying such flaws was the purpose of a number of external audits conducted for the TSA by Battelle, a research firm with experience in security. The TSA audits all its airports as a matter of policy, screeners said.
Following one such inspection of SFO’s security system, a Covenant whistle-blower recalled a Battelle auditor saying, “If I were the one to decide, I would shut down this airport.”
The TSA declined to release copies of Battelle’s reports. Melendez said such reports are kept secret lest they “draw a road map for those that may want to do us harm.”