Congressional hearing to probe airline security progress
Boston, MA, United States
September 15, 2011 04:21 pm EDT
Politics, Defense, Security Measures, Politics, Defense, National Security, Unrest, Conflicts And War, Act Of Terror
A congressional committee plans to hold a hearing Friday in Boston to check on whether the government’s $40 billion investment in airline security is worth the effort.
The House Homeland Security Committee is holding the hearing a short distance from where hijackers boarded airplanes they commandeered in a suicide mission on Sept. 11, 2001.
“Two of the aircraft involved in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, departed from Logan International Airport in Boston, Massachusetts,” a committee spokesman told All Headline News. “Since that time, Logan Airport has taken significant steps to bolster it security apparatus.”
Logan Airport, like many airports nationwide, responded with a layered security system.
One layer involves “perimeter security,” which includes fences, barriers and walls.
Another more controversial layer is checkpoint security, which includes a behavior analysis pilot program being tested at Logan Airport.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has hired about 2,800 behavior detection officers to watch for troublemakers at airports.
In addition to improving security, they are supposed to be a less intrusive method of searching for threats than body searches of passengers.
This week, a congressional committee voted to eliminate airport checkpoint scanners that render passengers nude in images projected onto video screens.
The Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) machines were installed at U.S. airports in 2007 and immediately criticized as an invasion of privacy.
TSA officials agreed they are intrusive but said they improve the ability of screeners to check for bombs and weapons.
Members of the House Subcommittee on Transportation Security who unanimously approved banning the AITs said they should be modified with technology that projects only a generic human figure onto a screen. Any suspicious items carried by passengers passing through the machines show up as a red box on closed-circuit screens.
The effect of modifying the AITs on airline security is undetermined, which is one of the issues expected to be addressed at the Homeland Security Committee field hearing Friday.
The hearing represents another investigation by Congress of claims by critics that airport security still leaves too many openings that terrorists could exploit.
Examples cited by the critics include the December 2009 “underwear bomber” who boarded a plane for Detroit with explosives in his underwear. He was arrested before he detonated the bomb.
Another incident that brought criticism of the TSA occurred in June, when a man traveled cross-country on airlines with an expired boarding pass.
A new Government Accountability Office report concluded the Department of Homeland Security has “made significant strides in protecting the nation, but has yet to reach its full potential.”
The Department of Homeland Security responded with a written statement saying, “America is a stronger, safer and more resilient country because of the work DHS and its many partners do every day.”
Accomplishments listed by the Homeland Security Department included baggage checks, passenger screening at checkpoints and terror watch lists that alert airport security of suspicious passengers.
Some critics of airline security were not convinced the accomplishments were adequate during another House Homeland Security Committee hearing last week.
“But we’re not as secure as we could or should be,” former Indiana Rep. Lee Hamilton said at the hearing.
Hamilton co-chaired the 9/11 Commission that made recommendations for preventing terrorist attacks.
He says lawmakers should pass legislation strengthening the position of the director of national intelligence “because somebody has to knock heads within the intelligence community to get them to coordinate and integrate their activities.”
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