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Is Boston's Logan Airport Safe?

Is Boston's Logan Airport Safe?Two weeks before terrorists hijacked two airliners from Boston, a Tufts grad and freelance journalist uncovered major security flaws at Logan.

Boston [09.26.01] At the time, Ben Hartman was just looking for an interesting story to jumpstart his freelance journalism career. What the 23-year-old Tufts graduate found -- when he decided to test the security at Logan Airport for an article in a local newspaper -- foreshadowed one of the worst attacks against the US in the nation's history.

"I figured I'd go to Logan and see whether I could get my cell phone through the gates unchecked," Hartman wrote in an article he published in The Boston Phoenix. "According to the Federal Aviation Administration website, cell phones and other electronic devices are supposed to be examined at security checkpoints. I frequently fly home... and in my past trips to the airport, I noticed that some guards would send my phone through an x-ray machine, others would turn it on to verify that it was a phone and others wouldn't even bother to check it."

At security checkpoints for three different airlines -- United, Delta, and Northwest -- Hartman got past the guards with no trouble and inspections. According to the Tufts graduate, he didn't have to make any elaborate plans -- he just walked right past the guards.

Hartman's findings, which were published in the Boston Phoenix on Sept. 12, have been supported by the FAA's own studies of security at Logan.

Today, The Boston Globe reported that a new FAA report shows Logan Airport has one of the worst security records in the country. And Hartman's experiment shines light on one of the airport's biggest problems -- preventing bombs and weapons from reaching the gates.

"Logan has by far the nation's worst records for the most serious violation: the number of times federal agents have slipped guns and dummy bombs through security checkpoints for which the airlines are responsible," reported the Globe.

Hartman did the same thing.

At the United gate, the freelance reporter cleared the metal detectors with his phone in his pocket.

"I left the area and approached the same checkpoint for round two," Hartman reported in the Phoenix. "This time, I handed the guard my cell phone, which was turned off, and cleared the metal detector. Without checking the phone by turning it on or sending it through the x-ray machine, he handed it back to me."

They had no way to know if the phone was real or a bomb.

At the Delta gate, Hartman voluntarily handed his phone to the guard. It was passed through and x-ray scanner and returned to him.

"Five minutes later, I approached the gate again, but this time I kept the phone in my pocket," he reported. "The same guard monitored my approach. He did not ask me to empty my pockets or check to see if I was carrying a cell phone."

The guard may have remembered his first trip though the gate, but Hartman said that he should have been checked again.

"He didn't know whether I had subsequently tampered with my phone," he said.

The Tufts graduate called the FAA after completing his experiment at Logan.

"I explained my past travel experiences to the Boston agent and told her about my investigation. She thanked me for my help and assured me that she would take care of the problem immediately," Hartman wrote in his article on Sept. 12. "Apparently, she didn't do it fast enough."

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