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'Patriot Pilot' reveals identity weeks after video rips security

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Pilot reveals security flaws
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Airline pilot Chris Liu says he took video of airport security because he "saw a ... problem"
  • He posted the critical video on YouTube, and also ripped Janet Napolitano on his website
  • San Francisco's airport has dismissed Liu's claims as "false and misleading"

(CNN) -- After referring to himself online only as "The Patriot Pilot," a California-based aviator revealed his identity Monday and explained his crusade to expose what he described as the nation's faulty airport security.

Chris Liu, 50, who has worked as a pilot for American Airlines, said he took and broadcast a video online presenting his view of San Francisco International Airport security because he "saw a potential problem," but didn't foresee the resulting uproar.

"Janet Napolitano did state that if you see something, say something," he said Monday night on CNN's "AC 360," referring to the nation's Homeland Security department chief. "I think (the public) already knows (about security issues) personally."

His footage, posted in late November and later removed from the popular video-sharing website YouTube, detailed his view of San Francisco International Airport security. On it, he said, "As you can see airport security is kind of farce."

On Christmas, the airport fired back deriding what it described as the pilot's "misleading" information and like-minded critics who had rallied behind him.

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A statement attributed to the airport said it was proud to be "both an innovator and a trendsetter in aviation security."

"SFO meets, and in many cases, exceeds every federal security requirement," the statement said.

Liu said Monday that the videos, which he narrated, aim to show the contrast between the passengers, who were heavily scrutinized, and airport employees who just passed through a single door.

"I wanted to show the disparity between what was going on upstairs, with the body scans, and downstairs," he said, claiming that airline and airport crew could get through airports with minimal checks and supervision. "There should be balanced and effective screening."

The airport, in its statement, claimed that the pilot "presents false and misleading information." Specifically, it says that one door that Liu focused on had a "card swipe" that led only to an "employee lunchroom" -- and not to the main airfield, as the pilot suggested.

The controversy is Liu's latest brush with the headlines. In July, the Sacramento home he'd owned for a year with his wife Sandra exploded while he was away on the East Coast. Four firefighters investigating a gas leak there were injured, CNN affiliate KCRA reported.

Video showed Liu arriving at the destroyed home, still wearing his American Airlines uniform. The suspect in the home blast, Robert Dunst, pleaded not guilty in November to various charges including arson and burglary, according to KCRA.

The pilot insisted he had no intention of making more news, though, when he snapped the cell-phone video at the northern California airport and posted it online. But afterward, he said that the consequences were swift and significant.

A few days after he posted the videos, Liu said, the Transportation Security Administration told him he was being suspended from the Federal Flight Deck Officer program. As an officer in that program, the federal agency had deputized him, among others, to carry a handgun in the cockpit.

The pilot said four air marshals and two local deputies then showed up at his home near Sacramento to personally confiscate his weapon.

The only answer he could get from the security agency as to why he was suspended from the program was that he may have violated a regulation, the pilot said.

The TSA said that it holds those serving as federal flight deck officers to "the highest ethical standards," and said it took action because the pilot was in the program.

"(Participants in the flight deck officer program) must be able to maintain sensitive security information," said the agency's spokeswoman Sarah Horowitz. "As the issuing authority of credentials and firearms, TSA reviews each possible violation of those standards and acts accordingly up to and including removing an individual from the assigned role."

Liu spoke to CNN last week, on condition of anonymity, and also championed his cause on his website, http://www.patriotpilot.com/. On it, he singles out Napolitano for not directly addressing his complaints and and rhetorically asks, "How much better could we make the system if TSA actually worked with us and not against us?"

"Punishing the Patriot Pilot only serves to remind each of us that we are not free to seek redress from our Government as provided for in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution," he wrote online.

In its statement Saturday, San Francisco's airport defended its practices, stressing that there are variances in the security system based on various factors and that many layers of protection cannot easily be seen.

"Proper and effective security requires multiple layers of systems, procedures and policies that are interlaced and constantly monitored," the airport said. "The vast majority of the widespread layers of this security program are behind the scenes and transparent to casual observers."

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