Passengers can Expect Double/Triple Screening, Pay and Cell Phone Monitoring
By LESLIE MILLER, Associated Press Writer
Beginning Friday, airline passengers will go through double screening
to make sure they're not carrying liquids onto planes, the head of the
airline industry's largest trade group said.
Passengers and their carry-on luggage will be checked not only at the
main security checkpoint, but also a second time at the boarding gate,
and perhaps a third time randomly. In addition, calls from public
phones at the airport may be monitored, as well as cell phones.
The stepped-up screening in response to a new terrorist threat began
Thursday at 25 airports where planes leave for Britain.
"It's going to spread across the whole system tomorrow," James May,
president of the Air Transport Association, said Thursday. It will be
phased in across the USA throughout the day Friday and the weekend.
The response to the terrorist threat produced long lines at airports
Thursday as security officials scrambled to put new measures in place
and passengers faced perplexing new restrictions -- including the ban
on carrying liquids onto aircraft.
Intelligence had indicated the terror plot unfolding in Britain
involved using benign liquids that could be mixed inside an airplane
cabin to make an explosive.
While plots to blow up airliners using liquid explosives are nothing
new -- such an attempt was foiled more than a decade ago -- the
government has been slow to upgrade its security equipment at airport
checkpoints so that it can detect explosives on passengers.
Transportation Security Administration chief Kip Hawley said the need
to tighten security came as a surprise and the changes were difficult
"It normally takes us about four weeks to roll out a change at a
security checkpoint, and this one came about in a little bit more than
four hours in the middle of last night," Hawley said. "Excuse us if
the additional security takes another day or two to implementt."
Duane Woerth, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, said the
government was overreacting. "They paralyzed the system with the
hassle factor again," Woerth said.
During the first few hours of the alert, the TSA was taking toiletries
away from flight crews, he said. "Then they said, 'This is stupid.
We're taking toothpaste away from the guy who's going to fly the
plane.' It didn't take them long to back down."
But Frank Cilluffo, director of the Homeland Security Policy Institute
at George Washington University, said it makes sense to insert
"uncertainty and randomness into the system so we can't let the
adversary game the system."
Still, he said, coordination among agencies and the industry remains a
Denis Breslin, spokesman for the American Airlines pilots union,
faulted nagging communication shortcomings among intelligence, law
enforcement and homeland security agencies.
"There's a whole lot of people making rules up right now, and until
they get it all sorted out, every passenger is going to have to go
through the nightmarish procedures that they're putting together right
now," said Breslin.
David Mackett, a pilot who heads the Airline Pilots Security Alliance,
said flight crews are treated as part of the problem.
"We're not happy that every time there's a threat we find out from the
media, and that there's almost a complete vacuum of information when
it comes to the air crews," Mackett said.
It was after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that box cutters and other
sharp objects were banned, bulletproof cockpit doors installed and air
marshals rushed into service.
And it was after Richard Reid, the confessed shoe bomber, tried to
blow up a trans-Atlantic flight in December 2001 that security
officials made passengers remove their shoes. Lighters were later
banned from passenger cabins.
Members of Congress have for several years criticized the TSA for
using 1970s-era X-ray technology to screen carry-on bags at security
Rafi Ron, former head of security at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport and
now a security consultant in Washington, said part of the problem is
that terrorists always try to exploit new vulnerabilities.
"Weapons and explosives are various and you can expect new types of
weapons as well as tactics," Ron said.
Douglas Laird, an aviation security expert and former security chief
for Northwest Airlines, said the plot described Thursday resembled a
1994-1995 attempt, codenamed "Bojinka," to blow up a dozen airliners
simultaneously over the Pacific Ocean using liquid explosives smuggled
onto planes in bottles of contact lens solution.
On the Net:
Transportation Security Administration: http://www.tsa.gov
Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.
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