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'Operation Tarmac' airport sweep widens

Ashcroft: "A wake-up call for every airport in America"

'Operation Tarmac' airport sweep widens

From Kelli Arena and Terry Frieden

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Federal authorities Wednesday sought to arrest more workers at Washington area airports wanted on a variety of charges, ranging from immigration violations to fraudulently obtaining security credentials.

As of Wednesday morning, 96 workers had been arrested. The United States Justice Department had said it was seeking a total 138 people.

None of the workers arrested is suspected of any connection to terrorism, officials said

Tuesday, Attorney General John Ashcroft called the arrests "a wake-up call for every airport in America."

"These individuals are charged with gaining access to secure areas of our airports by lying on security applications, using false or fictitious Social Security numbers or committing various immigration frauds," Ashcroft said.

Now 13 airports

The sweeps at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport and Baltimore-Washington International Airport are the latest in a nationwide operation aimed at tightening security among airport employees.

Operation Tarmac, launched after the September 11 attacks, has resulted in more than 350 arrests at 13 airports.

The workers were arrested on a variety of immigration-related charges, including visa overstays. The charges also include providing false information on employment applications and fraudulently obtaining security credentials for restricted access areas.

If convicted, many of the defendants face maximum penalties that range from two to 10 years in prison, plus fines of as much as $250,000 fine and/or deportation, Ashcroft said.


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