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TSA security director promoted despite history of security problems

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

The head of security at Nashville International Airport has been named temporary acting federal security director at the nation's largest airport, despite security concerns exposed at two of his previous airports.

Paul Armes is now the temporary acting federal security director at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta.

He was named to the temporary post after the Channel 4 I-Team and another TV investigative unit in Phoenix exposed security lapses at his previous airports.

Armes was TSA's security director at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix when a local TV station found employees bypassing security and carrying bags that were never screened.

After it was exposed, Armes was temporarily suspended and the airport decided to start screening all employees.

Armes left that airport and became the TSA federal security director at Nashville International Airport.

The Channel 4 I-Team found airport employees bypassing security carrying bags that no one was screening.

The Channel 4 I-Team also obtained internal reports showing TSA screeners repeatedly failing exams that tested their ability to spot potentially dangerous items in carry on bags.

Former TSA employees came to the Channel 4 I-Team with their security concerns.

"It would be fairly easy," said former TSA manager Gerald Smith when asked how easy would it be to slip in some kind of dangerous device into Nashville International Airport.

Former Air Marshal Robert MacLean said what the Channel 4 I-Team exposed proves that the TSA is making the wrong decisions about security.

"Their (TSA) priorities are misguided," MacLean said. "'You should be very, very frightened of flying because it's so easy to smuggle an IED device onto an aircraft and blow it up."

MacLean made national headlines in 2006 when he was fired for blowing the whistle on a TSA plan to reduce armed security on long-distance flights at the same time the government was warning of another 9/11 attack. MacLean also became a poster child for what the TSA can do to whistle blowers.

After Smith spoke to the Channel 4 I-Team, he received a letter from the TSA that stated he is under investigation for disclosing information about security screenings.

"The public expects us to expose wrongdoing," MacLean said. "Bottom line, the agency doesn't want you to go outside the agency to make your disclosures."

A spokesman from the TSA sent us an email that stated Nashville International Airport is screening airport employees on a random basis.

As for Paul Armes' temporary promotion, the TSA spokesman wrote, "In this capacity, he (Armes) is filling a critical temporary vacancy at a larger airport."

Copyright 2013 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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