The latest tool being deployed at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in the war on terror has four legs, a sleek black coat and a nose for the nefarious.
Her name is D'atri and she's an affable but determined Labrador retriever trained by the Transportation Security Administration to sniff out explosives among travelers in MSP's security checkpoint lines.
The TSA has more than 150 passenger screening canine teams throughout the country, duos that join bomb-sniffing pups with trained handlers. D'atri, who was named after fallen 9/11 firefighter Edward D'atri, began his assignment this week in Minneapolis.
D'atri's debut comes just before the start of the busy Thanksgiving holiday, where some 23 million travelers take to the skies. TSA officials say the canine teams are an "additional layer" of security to protect the traveling public.
The addition of bomb-sniffing dogs comes as security checkpoints at MSP are being overhauled, and as questions continue to plague TSA's overall effectiveness in screening passengers.
A recent report by the inspector general's office of the Department of Homeland Security found that TSA personnel failed 67 of 70 security tests, which were conducted covertly. The report, still classified, was the subject of a recent congressional hearing where TSA chief Peter Neffenger vowed to do better.
"Fourteen years after the 9/11 attacks, we face threats more dangerous than at any time in the recent past," Neffenger testified.
MSP Airport officials say the planned overhaul of security checkpoints will make the often-frustrating process more efficient.
Four checkpoint lines in Terminal 1 (Lindbergh) will be consolidated into two mega-checkpoints on the northern and southern ends of the terminal.
Most of the work will concentrate on expanding the northern checkpoint, where the Houlihan's and Hot Dish restaurants once were. Both checkpoints will have more expansive areas post-screening for travelers to collect their belongings and put on their shoes, jackets and belts.
The $12.4 million project should be ready by mid-February, just as frozen Twin Cities travelers take to warmer climes for spring break. Design simulations and current TSA staffing plans indicate wait times will not exceed 12 minutes, according to the Metropolitan Airports Commission.
And, D'atri will be on hand to detect explosives, which the TSA considers the greatest threat to the aviation system. TSA officials won't say whether D'atri will be joined by fellow dogs, which are usually Labs, Vizslas, German shepherds and Belgian Malinois breeds.
Although deemed "sociable," travelers are advised not to pet or feed the dogs as they snake through security lines, handler in tow.