Pilot Punished for Posting Video on Airport Security Flaws

10:24 AM, Dec 23, 2010   |    comments
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By GEORGE WARREN
KXTV-TV, Sacramento

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - An airline pilot is being disciplined by the Transportation Security Administration for posting video on YouTube pointing out what he believes are serious flaws in airport security.

The 50-year-old pilot, who lives outside Sacramento, asked that neither he nor his airline be identified. He has worked for the airline for more than a decade and was deputized by the TSA to carry a gun in the cockpit.

He is also a helicopter test pilot in the Army Reserve and flew missions for the United Nations in Macedonia.

Three days after he posted a series of six video clips recorded with a cell phone camera at San Francisco International Airport, four federal air marshals and two sheriff's deputies arrived at his house to confiscate his federally issued firearm. The pilot recorded that event as well and provided all the video to KXTV.

At the same time as the federal marshals took the pilot's gun, a deputy sheriff asked him to surrender his state-issued permit to carry a concealed weapon.

A follow-up letter from the sheriff's department said the CCW permit would be re-evaluated following the outcome of the federal investigation.

The YouTube videos, posted Nov. 28, show what the pilot calls the irony of flight crews being forced to go through TSA screening while ground crew who service the aircraft are able to access secure areas simply by swiping a card.

"As you can see, airport security is kind of a farce. It's only smoke and mirrors so you people believe there is actually something going on here," the pilot narrates.

Video shot in the cockpit shows a medieval-looking rescue ax available on the flight deck after the pilots have gone through the metal detectors. "This looks a little more formidable than a box cutter, doesn't it?" the pilot asks rhetorically.

A letter from the TSA dated Dec. 6 informed the pilot that "an administrative review into your deputation status as a Federal Flight Deck Officer has been initiated."

According to the letter, the review was directly related to the discovery by TSA staff of the YouTube videos. "The content and subject of these videos may have violated regulations concerning disclosure of sensitive security information," the letter said.

The pilot's attorney, Don Werno, said he believed the federal government sent six people to the house to send a message.

"And the message was you've angered us by telling the truth and by showing America that there are major security problems despite the fact that we've spent billions of dollars allegedly to improve airline safety," Werno said.

The pilot said he is not in trouble with his airline, but a supervisor asked him to remove public access to the YouTube videos.

He does, however, face potential civil penalties from the TSA. He said he would likely go public with his identity and his story when it becomes clear how the government plans to proceed.

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