Security company had been fined

Associated Press

ATLANTA — The security firm guarding checkpoints at two of the three airports where the terrorists hijacked their planes was fined $1 million last year in connection with the hiring of employees with criminal records and inadequate training.

Argenbright Security, based in Atlanta, provides security at most of the biggest airports in the United States, including Washington Dulles and Newark, N.J., where two of the four hijacked planes originated Tuesday.

Company president Bill Barbour said Thursday that Argenbright handles passenger checkpoints, baggage and other services for American and United airlines at Dulles and Newark. He would not comment on the hijacked flights.

"We are working diligently with all the government agencies in this investigation to find out what the causal factors were and then derive the appropriate solution," Barbour said.

The company also may provide services at Boston’s Logan Airport but does not work for United or American there, Barbour said. The other two hijacked flights — one American and one United — originated at Logan.

The company issued a statement expressing sorrow for the "tragic events" and said it is "working closely with and providing full support to its airline customers as they deal with the aftermath" of the terrorist attacks.

Last year, Argenbright pleaded guilty to charges related to inadequate training, testing and background checks on employees who staffed checkpoints at the Philadelphia airport from 1995 to 1998. The federal investigation found that Argenbright employees had backgrounds that included drug dealing, kidnapping, aggravated assault and theft.

A federal judge fined Argenbright $1 million, the maximum.

"If corporations such as Argenbright Security Inc. fail to meet their obligations and responsibilities, then the millions of people who fly on commercial aircraft every day are put at risk," the U.S. Attorney’s office in Philadelphia said at the time. The violations did not harm any passengers.

Barbour called the Philadelphia situation "an isolated incident" caused by "three rogue managers who falsified records." Those managers were prosecuted.

He also said Argenbright has beefed up its employee screening procedures and hired key people to oversee compliance, including Adm. Cathal Flynn, former director of security for the Federal Aviation Administration.

Argenbright also committed dozens of violations of federal labor laws at the Los Angeles airport, an administrative law judge ruled in February 2000. The violations included 40 suspensions and final warnings given to employees during a strike in 1999.

Argenbright employs about 19,000 people at more than 45 U.S. airports.

Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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