FBI expanding presence at Atlanta airport


The FBI is expanding its presence at the world’s busiest airport, where it works to help protect against everything from human trafficking to hijackings.

On international Concourse E at Hartsfield-Jackson, the FBI will have about a dozen FBI agents and task force officers and a special agent supervisor. They will work on the front lines on incidents or criminal issues at the airport.

The FBI’s responsibilities include special aircraft jurisdiction matters such as hijackings, interference with a flight crew and assaults on aircraft. The FBI also works with U.S. Customs and Border Protection on human trafficking and counter-terrorism efforts, according to FBI spokesman Stephen Emmett.

As the world’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson is “a potential target for various types of threats,” according to city documents. The FBI’s new office space is “exclusive and highly secure,” according to the airport.

The Atlanta City Council this month approved a resolution for the FBI to double its office space and nearly double its staffing at the airport.

That means “a significant increase in commitment in terms of readiness by the FBI at Atlanta’s airport,” Emmett said in a written statement.

Separately, the airport plans to begin using an FBI service for criminal history monitoring of airport workers, rather than Hartsfield-Jackson’s current system of conducting background checks on employees every two years. The airport plans to use the FBI’s Rap Back service facilitated by the Transportation Security Administration.

The service is less expensive than re-fingerprinting employees every two years, according to city documents. The airport last year moved to the system of fingerprinting employees every two years, amid concerns about an insider threat, after previously conducting background checks only when a worker was hired.

According to a summary of the FBI Rap Back system, fingerprints are retained for ongoing criminal history checks.

The airport is seeking Atlanta City Council approval for a memorandum of understanding with TSA for the service.

Hartsfield-Jackson also began screening employees regularly at checkpoints after a gun-running scheme came to light in 2014, when a Delta baggage handler was charged with helping to smuggle guns onto jets bound for New York City. The worker used his employee access to secure areas to smuggle guns into the airport and pass them to another man who took them onto flights to New York, according to the charges.

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