Clam diggers drafted for homeland security

The Transportation Security Administration is enlisting Boston clam diggers with government-issued cell phones to keep an eye out for terrorists in the harbor shallows outside of Logan International Airport.

The clammers are participants in advanced technology programs being tested at five airports under the Airport Access Control Pilot Program, beginning in June.

The advanced technologies will be deployed at airports in Boston, Denver, Orlando, Fla., Salt Lake City and at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. They will be tested for effectiveness and effect on airport operations throughout the summer.

These programs will deploy various technologies, including state-of-the-art video surveillance, radio frequency identification (RFID) cards, iris scan readers, and hand-geometry readers to protect against unwanted guests going to secure areas of the airport, said Rear Adm. David Stone, assistant secretary of homeland security for the TSA, in a press release.

At Logan, which straddles Boston Harbor, the Massachusetts Port Authority and TSA have partnered with clam diggers who have undergone a background check to be an additional set of "eyes and ears" to monitor the area for suspicious activities, the Homeland Security Department said. The clam diggers will receive geospatially enabled, voice-recognition cell phones to report trouble.

The clam digger activity on the mud flats near the harbor waterfront will be part of an advanced water perimeter intrusion detection system being tested at Logan that will use infrared sensors to identify authorized individuals near active runways, the TSA said.

The tests are phase two of the department's plan to improve security around airport perimeters, particularly because of concerns about the possibility of terrorists stationed nearby using shoulder-fired missiles to shoot down an aircraft.

At JFK, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, along with TSA, will test a barrier-free boundary surrounding a cargo warehouse. Biometric scanners and RFID cards, as well as a video surveillance system, will be used to limit access to authorized personnel.

Iris recognition scanning technology will be deployed at Orlando International Airport to control access for drivers of vehicles into a secured section of the airport.

Denver International Airport will test a barrier-free boundary surrounding a cargo warehouse using "ultrasonic emitters and microwave sensors," as well as video surveillance and biometric scanning for all people authorized to enter the area.

In Salt Lake City, a hand geometry reader and a video motion surveillance system will be used to secure access to the baggage area entrance within a non-public, secure portion of the airport.


About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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