Denver airport adds new security tools

Security officials blanketed Denver International Airport with what their chief called "a full- court press" Saturday as convention delegates and visitors arrived for one of the highest-profile events in Denver's history.

"What we have is a fusion of people, processes and technologies working in concert to meet any possible threat," said David Bassett, the Transportation Security Administration's federal security director at DIA, after he and other officials unveiled two new explosive-detection devices that will be deployed at the airport Monday.

One is a passive millimeter- wave bomb detector that can be mounted on a tripod at high-traffic locations to screen airport passengers and visitors for explosive materials they may be carrying.

The device works by looking for "disruptions" in millimeter waves generated naturally by the human body - a discrepancy that could indicate concealed explosives, Bassett said.

To date, the equipment has been tested only at Washington, D.C.'s Union Station on passengers riding Amtrak trains and at the Staten Island ferry in New York.

DIA is the first airport in the country to get the mobile millimeter-wave machines as well as a companion technology, a hand- held spectrometer that can quickly test whether a suspicious liquid or powder contains explosive materials.

The technologies will be tested at DIA under a pilot program for two to three months. The millimeter-wave machines also will be installed at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport during the Republican National Convention.

The portable spectrometer uses a laser to get a chemical "signature" of the material being tested and then compares it with an extensive "library" of known solids and liquids, officials said.

Saturday, TSA explosives security specialist Robert McCune and bomb-appraisal officer Tyler Shellito demonstrated the spectrometer's capability, first testing a small vial containing a white powder and then the clear liquid contents of a plastic bottle.

A message on the spectrometer identified the powder as an artificial sweetener, and the contents of the bottle were revealed as hydrogen peroxide.

The portable device gives the TSA the ability to quickly test powders and liquids so the airport can keep operating.

This week, the TSA also is deploying Visible Intermodal Prevention Response, or VIPR, teams at DIA and other high-traffic transportation locations in the Denver area as part of a stepped-up security presence that coincides with the Democratic convention.

The teams include explosives specialists, bomb- appraisal officers, behavior-detection officers, federal air marshals and bomb-sniffing canine teams.