Online Originals: 9/11 changed the way we fly forever

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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — As we come upon 20 years since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, 9OYS wanted to look at how the way we fly has changed over the past two decades.

“There is nothing the same, it’s a completely different world”, says Pitt-Greenville Airport Executive Director, Bill Hopper. “Screening is completely different, it used to be done by the airlines, and now it’s done by the federal government.”

The TSA was created just two months after September 11th in November of 2001. President Bush signed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act into law which would, “require screening conducted by federal officials, 100 percent checked baggage screening, expansion of the Federal Air Marshal Service and reinforced cockpit doors.”

Overall, the organization was created to find and mitigate threats in all forms of transportation.

FULL TSA TIMELINE: https://www.tsa.gov/timeline

Over the last two decades, airports have implemented new technology: full-body scanners, CT Xrays, and Credential Authorization Technology. But according to TSA Assistant Federal Security Director Miguel Herrera security starts before you even get to the airport.

Screening starts today in the living room when the passenger is sitting down at their laptop, purchasing the ticket. They are putting their full name, date of birth, things of that nature. As soon as they hit enter and buy that ticket their name is run through several different databases, and that’s were the screening starts.

Miguel Herrera, Assistant Federal Security Director – TSA Screening for RDU and surrounding airports

Herrera said prior to the 9/11 attacks, airport security was lax. It went from a “one size fits all to a risk-based, intelligence-driven organization to mitigate threats.”

Pairing older units like metal detectors, which use 1960s technology, with full-body scanners can give a more accurate assessment. The addition of computed technology, or CT X-rays at checkpoints, allows TSA agents to look at the items in passengers’ bags in 3D so they no longer have to go through each person’s belongings.

Manual ID checks are still in effect but are now assisted with credential authorization technology or CAT machines, that allow passengers to insert or scan their ID or passport and the machine will provide additional information regarding the ID and if it is valid.

And it’s those technologies that over the years have stopped additional threats to American soil, like the attempted shoe bomber attack just two months after 9/11, the 2006 liquid explosives attempt and the 2009 Christmas Day underwear bomber attempt.

Other aviation terrorist attacks include the 2015 ISIS takedown of a Russian plane and the 2017 failed bomb plot in Australia.

Herrera said the threat to aviation is still there. It only takes one mistake for a disaster to happen.

“Our officers have to be right 100% of the time, day in, and day out,” Herrera said. “The adversary just has to come to an airport and be right once, and things could be catastrophic.”

On the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Herrera said TSA agents and officers will be out on the floor in all airports across the country, “working with heavy hearts knowing the reason they are there. But they will be there mitigating the threat just like they do every day of the year.”

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