Keeping a Low Profile
NPS grad cites gender bias, other problems in latest airline security flap.
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Deirdre Walker was thinking hard about airport security long before the Christmas Day bombing attempt that could have brought down a Northwest Airlines jet traveling from Amsterdam to Detroit.
“I was deeply troubled and angry,” Walker says. “It it was absolutely preventable.” Walker is a graduate of the master’s degree program in homeland security at the Center for Homeland Defense and Security at Monterey’s Naval Postgraduate School and a former Assistant Police Chief from Montgomery County, Md. Last October, she caught the attention of Transportation Security Agency officials after blogging about her recent brushes with airport security.
This week, as President Obama huddles with experts to plug holes in the nation’s airport security system, she’s been invited to meet with TSA officials. When she questioned why she was repeatedly singled out for additional airport screening, she learned from a TSA employee that she was selected on one occasion simply because there weren’t enough male screeners on duty to pat-down male passengers.
“We get singled out if we look like we’re going to cooperate. It’s the path of least resistance,” she says. “How many terrorists so far have been women? None.”
Walker, who’s the center’s alumni coordinator, will attend the meeting as a private citizen. She says security experts will dissect the Christmas incident for a long time. “Some of these issues are just wicked,” she says, adding that others are simpler, like “behavioral profiling” to raise red flags when passengers pay cash and fail to check baggage for trans-Atlantic flights. “It’s not rocket science,” she says.