Tags: Democrats | Want | Fed | Takeover | Airport | Security

Democrats Want Fed Takeover of Airport Security

Monday, 24 September 2001 12:00 AM

And with no visible opposition by the GOP to the idea, Dems may get what they say they want.

"I think we must convince the American people very quickly that it's safe to go to airports and to get on airplanes and fly as we did before Sept. 11, and I think the federal government has the central responsibility to do that," House Minority leader Richard A. Gephardt said on NBC's Meet The Press Sunday.

Appearing with him, Republican Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert raised no objection, merely saying: "I think the American people deserve no less than the most competent people to be there at those gates to go through and check individuals and luggage and to make sure that the American public is safe."

"I'm not sure how we're going to fund this. It might be the government's responsibility to do that. We haven't made that decision yet," the Speaker added.

Hastert, however, did not say he thought the Federal government was best equipped to do a job that Jane F. Garvey, the head of the Federal Aviation Administration told Congress could cost $1.8 billion a year.

Sen. Tom Daschle, the Senate majority leader suggested that "federal control is the best way" to restore public confidence that air travel is safe "at least for a period of time."

Daschle told the New York Times, "Maybe there will be another way that would be equally as effective down the road, but right now I can't think of a better alternative."

His opposite number, Senate minority leader Trent Lott told the Times that Congress should tackle the security problem in the near future, but was mum on the question of a federal takeover.

Critics of the present system, in which airport security is mostly left to private companies hired by the airlines, say it's inadequate, especially in the light of the Black Tuesday aircraft hijackings and the subsequent destruction of the World Trade Center and the horrific damage done to the Pentagon.

They say that security contracts go to the lowest bidder and that those hired to screen passengers at the 700 odd checkpoints in airports across the country are often ill-equipped or not well suited for the sensitive assignments.

According to the Times, tests showed that the security screeners' ability to detect smuggled weapons fell in the 1990's to 80 percent from 90 percent, and then the F.A.A. stopped releasing the numbers altogether.

And while most agree that the present system is badly in need of fixing, there is serious disagreement even within federal agencies over the idea of handing the job to the federal government.

Among those in disagreement is the Transportation Department's inspector general and the General Accounting Office, the Congressional watchdog agency.

Some blame the airlines for the laxity apparent in the system, noting that since they all want to get their passengers on board their planes on time, the efficiency of the screenings will depend on the length of lines of passengers waiting to be cleared - longer lines usually means less screening and more rushing.

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta told the Times the administration has yet to decide how to approach the problem. A spokesman, Chet Lunner said that two study teams, one on airplane security and another on airport security were appointed a week ago, and are meeting daily. They are due to report by next week at the latest.

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And with no visible opposition by the GOP to the idea, Dems may get what they say they want. I think we must convince the American people very quickly that it's safe to go to airports and to get on airplanes and fly as we did before Sept. 11, and I think the federal...
Democrats,Want,Fed,Takeover,Airport,Security
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2001-00-24
Monday, 24 September 2001 12:00 AM
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