Mississippi Congressman Wants Probe of Jackson Airport

A Mississippi congressman is calling for an investigation of security at the Jackson airport because of newspaper reports of lapses and thwarted inspections.

Several current and former Transportation Security Administration employees, including some who would not go on the record for fear of losing their jobs, claim TSA management used inside information to alert security screeners of undercover tests for improving airport security, The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson reported Monday.

The newspaper said the employees also allege that a lax atmosphere has allowed dangerous items or questionable passengers to slip through security checkpoints at the Jackson-Evers International Airport. Questions about TSA's operations in Jackson were first raised in May following reports that Jackson Mayor Frank Melton posed as a police officer so he could board an airliner with his guns.

U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, the ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, told the newspaper the problems were "truly disturbing."

"It is vital that you dig deep and get answers. We may not be happy with them, but we need them," Thompson said in a letter to Homeland Security Inspector General Richard Skinner.

Federal Security Director Larry Rowlett, in charge of aviation security in Jackson and seven satellite airports throughout the state, defended TSA's Jackson operations in a statement Monday.

"We know our mission. We know our mission well. We will not falter," Rowlett said. "We'll get it right and we'll get it right every time."

Thompson asked Skinner to investigate whether workers were tipped off to covert inspectors and who was responsible for leaking that information. Thompson also asked that the investigation look into procedures used to make sure dangerous items located at checkpoints are properly reported.