Security Guards, A Weak Link In Homeland Security

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Across the United States, large numbers of ill-trained, low-paid private security guards are protecting tempting terrorist targets.

Fifty-five-year-old Richard Bergendahl is one of them. He fights the war on terrorism in Los Angeles, protecting a high-rise office building for 19-thousand-dollars a year. Down the block is a skyscraper that has been identified by President Bush as a target for a September eleventh-style airplane attack.

Bergendahl says he often thinks "what am I doing here? These people are paying me minimum wage."

The security guard industry found itself involuntarily transformed after the 2001 terrorist attacks from an army of "rent-a-cops" to protectors of the homeland.

Yet many security guards are paid little more than restaurant cooks or janitors. And a survey by The Associated Press found the industry is governed by a maze of conflicting state rules, with vastly different requirements for training and background checks.

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