MEG OLIVER, co-anchor:
Despite all the money spent to tighten security at the nation's airports. there are still big holes in the security net. Tens of thousands of airport workers are not regularly screened, but the agency that oversees security says it's confident the system does work. Armen Keteyian reports.
Unidentified Man #1: And only one bag per passenger, please.
Unidentified Woman #2: And I need your ID.
ARMEN KETEYIAN reporting:
While passengers, pilots and flight attendants undergo careful screening, watch through a CBS News hidden camera how easy it is for employees at one of the busiest US airports to get into a secure area. A simple flash of a security badge. No X-rays, no physical screening, no questions asked.
Unidentified Man #2: Could have a gun. Could have a bomb. It's very scary.
KETEYIAN: This airport employee, who asked us to disguise his identity and alter his voice, showed us just how far the wrong person wearing the right badge could go.
Man #2: They could drop anything they wanted to on the plane, inside a crowded terminal area. Whatever they decided to do, they could do it.
Unidentified Man #3: Are we flying first-class today?
KETEYIAN: Today, nearly 700,000 airport employees across the country, including cleaners, maintenance, catering and ramp workers, hold security IDs known as SIDA badges. In most cases, these badges allow complete access in and around airplanes. Security analyst Charlie Slepian has deep concerns over the abundance of badges and lack of oversight.
Mr. CHARLES SLEPIAN (Security Analyst): Somebody can take a badge and duplicate it. They can lend it to somebody else. They can give it away. It can be stolen. And once it's in the hands of somebody who is unauthorized, that person will have access to an airplane or baggage or cargo.
KETEYIAN: At Reagan Airport in Washington, for example, our cameras caught unscreened workers entering a secure area, said to lead directly to baggage handling and the planes.
That kind of scenario is frightening, concerning.
Captain CHARLIE BLACK (Flight Attendant): It's troubling.
Unidentified Woman #2: It's very troubling, yeah.
KETEYIAN: Most troubling, say these pilots and flight attendants, is how many inside SIDA badges belong to outside contractors.
Woman #2: These people are the lowest-waged people on the property. If approached and offered 5,000, $10,000 to carry a knapsack in, would they do it?
KETEYIAN: Our groups says the TSA has it backwards when it puts flight crews, not ground workers, under the microscope.
Mr. BLACK: The people that we know the most about that are the most carefully vetted employees are the ones that we are physically searching vs. the people we really don't know.
KETEYIAN: We wanted to question someone from the TSA about our story but despite repeated requests no one from the agency would speak with us on camera; instead, it issued this statement.
The TSA says employees working in secure areas "are subject to multiple security layers," including "random screening at any time and without notice" and are "required to undergo extensive background checks."
But how extensive can those checks really be when just last year 65 illegal immigrants got into the TSA system and were working in some of the most secure areas of several major US airports before finally being arrested? Armen Keteyian, CBS News, Washington.