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Israel Airport Security Often Run by Untrained Employees

As airports the world over tighten their security following the attempted Christmas bombing on a Northwest Airlines plane, the final security check at Ben-Gurion International Airport is being carried out by employees who have not been trained for the job, Haaretz has learned.

This month, the airport has been lacking professional security officers, because the new firm responsible for examining passengers and their carry-on luggage does not have enough staff.

The Airports Authority has been using its own staff to compensate for the lack of manpower, but some of these people did not receive the training to carry out the security checks necessary, security officers told Haaretz.

This is the last, most important security check, directly prior to embarkation. At this point, passengers have passed the first security interview and received a boarding pass, and said good-bye to anyone who is not traveling.

Here, passengers pass through a metal detector, and their carry-on luggage is scanned.

Until now, the check was carried out by L.M., a private firm, but in January, the role passed to another firm, Hatama.

Hatama, which won the Airports Authority tender, pays lower wages, and as a result is having trouble finding experienced, trained employees.

Many employees of L.M. refused to work for Hatama for lower pay. The Airports Authority staff members filling in the gaps generally work interviewing passengers and checking luggage. Only a few are trained to handle the X-ray machines used to scan carry-on bags.

The Airports Authority is responsible for teaching the private firms’ staff how to use the X-ray machines. However, in at least one incident last week, untrained staff members were asked to operate the machines.

According to a security officer who spoke on condition of anonymity, the reinforcement employees received a short overview of the machine, which they then proceeded to operate.

“Special training is required to operate the X-ray machine,” the officer told Haaretz. “But the rushed training that we underwent last week was a joke. I’m afraid I will be asked to do a job I do not know how to do, and that I will be unable to identify suspicious objects in passengers’ hand luggage.”

Other security officers complained that they are overworked because they have to make up for the lack of staff.

In response the Airports Authority said that passengers’ security is “a primary concern,” and that “all security checks are carried out by professional and trained personnel, with no exceptions.”

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