Convicted domestic terrorist Sara Jane Olson, 68, of St. Paul, was allowed to go through TSA's expedited security screening known as TSA Pre Check last year, despite her criminal background. And when a TSA Agent at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport recognized Olson, and alerted a supervisor, his concerns were ignored.
Those are the findings contained in an TSA Inspector General Report released earlier this month. Olson is not identified by name, but is rather described as a "notorious convicted felon." Fox 9 has confirmed through sources that the passenger was Olson and the airport was MSP. The security issue identified with Olson is expected to be discussed at a Congressional Homeland Security Subcommittee Hearing tomorrow.
Sara Jane Olson aka Kathleen Ann Soliah was a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA). For 25 years she lived in hiding in St. Paul before she was arrested in 1999, pleading guilty in 2001 to planting explosive devices underneath police squad cars in 1975. She was released on parole in 2009 after serving 7 years in prison.
The heavily redacted TSA Inspector General report describes how on June 29, 2014, Olson was processed through security when a TSA Agent "recognized the sufficiently notorious convicted felon based on media coverage," and then learned after scanning her boarding pass that she had received TSA Pre Check, despite her criminal conviction.
According to the report, when the TSA Agent notified his supervisor, he was directed to "take no further action and allow the traveler through the TSA Pre Check lane." Because of the supervisors actions, the report says, there was no incident report for the event. A whistleblower reported it to TSA's Office of Special Counsel.
TSA Pre Check allows verified passengers to skip taking off their shoes and removing liquids from their bags. However, there are 28 types of criminal convictions that preclude an individual from TSA Pre Check.
The report says Olson did not receive TSA Pre Check through its application program whereby she would have been issued an ineligibility letter because of her criminal conviction. She also wasn't allowed in through what's known as "managed inclusion" which allows passengers through the TSA Pre Check line in order to regulate passenger wait times during peak hours at security checkpoints.
Instead, it appears Olson received her TSA Pre Check through what's known as the Secure Flight program. That program compares passenger information from the airlines to the Terrorist Screening Database (TDSB) and the "No Fly" and "Selectee List" of passengers warranting additional scrutiny. Data from the Secure Flight program is purged within 7 days of travel, so it is unclear how Olson was allowed to get on the TSA Pre Check, and the portion of the report that describes the break down is almost completely redacted.
The Inspector General makes two recommendations in the report. The first is heavily redacted and reads: "We recommend that the TSA Chief Risk Officer: Discontinue _____ Secure Flight program _______________." TSA disagreed with that recommendation. The Inspector General said in considered TSA's action "non-responsive to the intent of the recommendation which remains open and unresolved." It appears from the exchange that TSA considered Olson a low risk, and therefore acceptable for TSA Pre Check.
The second recommendation was that passengers be referred to the standard screening check when agents believe the passenger should not be eligible for TSA Pre Check. TSA agreed with that recommendation.