Lawmakers Question TSA Program After LAX Shooting

TSA agents did not press a panic button alerting authorities of the shooting, an official said Thursday during a House subcommittee hearing

By Andrew Lopez
|  Friday, Nov 15, 2013  |  Updated 3:18 AM EDT
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A panic button alerting authorities to emergencies was not pressed when a gunman opened fire inside a terminal at LAX, killing a TSA agent. Officials say that had the shooter not been targeting security officers, he could have caused massive casualties. Patrick Healy reports from LAX for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Nov. 14, 2013.

Patrick Healy

A panic button alerting authorities to emergencies was not pressed when a gunman opened fire inside a terminal at LAX, killing a TSA agent. Officials say that had the shooter not been targeting security officers, he could have caused massive casualties. Patrick Healy reports from LAX for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Nov. 14, 2013.

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If the gunman in the fatal Los Angeles International shooting had attacked at random instead of targeting only Transportation Security Administration officers, he could have caused mass casualties, a Homeland Security chairman said Thursday during a House subcommittee hearing reviewing the incident in Washington, D.C.

Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, spoke during a hearing that called into question the effectiveness of the Transportation Security Administration’s behavioral screening program at airports, as well as initial “lessons learned” following the deadly LAX shooting, which left one TSA officer dead and several people wounded.

McCaul said the alleged gunman had four unobstructed minutes to “wreak havoc” in the airport. 

Photos and Videos

Memorial Held For Slain TSA Officer

At a public memorial service at the LA Sports Arena on Tuesday, Gerardo Hernandez was remembered as a family man who always had a smile on his face. The TSA officer was shot and killed at LAX when a gunman opened fire on Nov. 1. Patrick Healy reports from LAX for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Nov. 12, 2013.
More Photos and Videos

“If his goal was to produce mass casualties rather than target TSA personnel the outcome would have been more severe,” McCaul said.

McCaul was also concerned with TSA protocol during the shooting, saying a panic button alerting authorities to emergencies was not pressed.

A contractor with the airport, not a TSA agent, notified authorities of the shooting, McCaul said.

A report released this week by the Government Accountability Office found that behavior techniques are only slightly better than chance at detecting deception.

Rep. Richard Hudson, R-S.C., chairman of the Subcommittee on Transportation Security, opened the meeting by questioning the detection techniques employed by nearly 3,000 TSA behavior detection agents.

“I do see the value of using behavioral analysis to bolster aviation security,” Hudson said. “But only when we can prove that the taxpayer dollars are being spent in the most effective manner possible.”

The TSA has spent about $900 million on the program since it was fully deployed in 2007, according to the report.

TSA officer Geraldo Hernandez was gunned down while working at a document checkpoint inside Terminal 3 the day of the shooting.

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