It Was Shoes On, No Boarding Pass Or ID. But Airport Security Forever Changed On 9/11


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A traveler at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport walks to a Transportation Security Administration checkpoint on Nov. 26, 2014.

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Two men identified by authorities as hijackers Mohamed Atta (right) and Abdulaziz Alomari (center) pass through airport security on Sept. 11, 2001, at Portland International Jetport in Maine in an image from airport surveillance tape released on Sept. 19, 2001.

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Military police from the Massachusetts National Guard on their first day of duty at Boston’s Logan International Airport on Oct. 5, 2001. Several thousand National Guard troops were called up around the U.S. to ensure airport security in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

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Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta (left) meets with the CEOs of major U.S. airlines, including U.S. Airways CEO Rakesh Gangwal (right), and Federal Aviation Administration Director Jane Garvey on Nov. 15, 2001, at the Department of Transportation in Washington, D.C. Mineta called the meeting to discuss improvements in airport security.

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This still frame from television footage obtained by ABC News and released Feb. 7, 2002 shows the shoes worn by alleged shoe bomber Richard Reid.

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Jan. 24, 2002 at Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Customs inspector Lance Howard (left) demonstrates to Customs Commissioner Rob Bonner (center) Immigration and Naturalization Service Commissioner Jim Ziglar the operation of the American Science and Engineering Micro-Dose 101 X-ray machine. A handgun (right) inside a briefcase is displayed on the screen of the machine.

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Participants in the first class of commercial airline pilots who volunteered to carry handguns learn defense tactics April 17, 2003 in Glynco, Ga., as part of the Transportation Security Administration’s Federal Flight Deck Officer Training program. The inaugural group of Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) candidates spent the week learning how to use a handgun and defensive tactics.

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Personal items of liquid and gel containers taken from passengers lie in a trash can at Dulles International Airport Aug. 10, 2006 in Chantilly, Va.

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Sgt. Cliff Java of the San Francisco police department and his dog, Jacky, check the luggage in the ticketing area of the International Terminal at the San Francisco International Airport on July 3, 2007 in San Francisco, Calif.

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A passenger goes through a full body scanner at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 24, 2010.

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In response to the failed attack in which a terrorist was able to sneak dangerous explosives through security, in March of 2010, the TSA began installing hundreds of full body scanners using Advanced Imaging Technology.

By the end of 2010, approximately 500 AIT machines are deployed nationwide.

December, 2011: TSA pre-check begins, vetted travelers pay to go through shorter security lines

With hundreds of millions of travelers passing through the TSA’s airport security checkpoints each day, the agency wanted a better way to discern who was and who wasn’t a serious threat. So it started its known and trusted traveler program to provide expedited screening for those willing to pay for it and undergo a more detailed background check.

The TSA says it makes risk assessments about passengers prior to their arrival bat an airport checkpoint via these thorough background checks. Vetted travelers pay $85 for five years, get to go through a shorter security line where they no longer have to remove shoes and belts.

The TSA, meanwhile, says it is able to focus resources on more high-risk and unknown passengers.

JUNE, 2015: TSA flunks undercover tests

The TSA’s Inspector General reported that TSA officers failed to detect weapons, explosives and other prohibited items smuggled through various airport security checkpoints by undercover agents 95% of the time.

The astronomically high failure rate led to the reassignment of Melvin Carraway, who was then the acting TSA director. It also prompted significant changes in TSA training and procedures, including enhanced screening and increased random searches.

March and June, 2016: ISIS attacks outside Turkey airport security perimeter and «a flawed approach to security»

In June, three suicide bombers who had been turned away at the airport security checkpoint, opened fire with semi-automatic weapons before detonating explosive belts at Ataturk airport’s international terminal in Istanbul, Turkey, killing themselves and 45 other people, while injuring more than 200.

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Bullet impacts are pictured on a window at Ataturk airport’s International airport on June 29, 2016, a day after a suicide bombing and gun attack targeted Istanbul’s airport, killing at least 36 people.

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A Libyan traveller packs his laptop in his suitcase before boarding his flight for London at Tunis-Carthage International Airport on March 25, 2017. The United States announced a ban on all electronics larger than a standard smartphone on board direct flights out of eight countries across the Middle East, in effect from March 25, 2017.

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Travelers pass through security screening at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Nov. 29, 2020 in SeaTac, Washington state.

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Travelers pass through security screening at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Nov. 29, 2020 in SeaTac, Washington state.

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«People are very creative, the threats are very creative,» says Traverzo, adding, «It’s up to us to anticipate that, and it’s up to us to look at those things and try to come up with ideas to counter methods» that terrorists may come up with.

There hasn’t been a successful attack against commercial aviation in this country in the 20 years since 9/11, and outside experts agree that while there is still room for improvement, TSA has been effective in preventing another terrorist attack.

  • Remembering Sept. 11
  • TSA
  • 9/11
  • Sept. 11 attacks

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