FBI, CIA to Work Closer with Airports to Prevent Terrorism Airline Security Strategies - and a Rush to Secure a Seat

Article excerpt

The single most effective recommendation by a presidential blue ribbon panel on aviation security is the one that is too secret to talk about in detail.

But it is the reason that Central Intelligence Agency director John Deutch and Federal Bureau of Investigation director Louis Freeh both have seats on the 19-member commission.

In addition to beefing up airport security with updated X-ray machines, bomb-sniffing dogs, and ground crews cleared by the FBI, the commission chaired by Vice President Al Gore is recommending that the US proactively deploy the country's massive intelligence assets to help prevent terrorist attacks before they ever take place. It won't be easy, security experts say. Particularly in a world where shadowy groups have increasing access to portable antiaircraft missiles, sophisticated explosives, and miniature, remote detonation systems. And experts warn that terrorists in the 21st century will likely expand their arsenals to include chemical, biological, and nuclear materials. The effort by US law-enforcement and intelligence agencies holds the potential to pay enormous dividends to American security by putting terrorists around the globe on notice that Uncle Sam is watching. "The one area that will be key is how is the {US} intelligence system going to function so that it can anticipate who is going to do what to you and where," says David Plavin, president of the Airports Council International, a Washington-based group that represents the nation's 550 airports. "That is the only piece of the system we haven't talked about in great detail, but it is an area where you'd better hope that your folks are working overtime and effectively," he says. Mr. Plavin says that no airport or airline security system is foolproof. But updated systems deployed at most airports will provide an effective deterrent to terror attacks because the majority of terrorists want to carry out their atrocities with a minimum chance of being caught. The Gore aviation commission was formed by President Clinton on July 25, a week after TWA Flight 800 plunged into the Atlantic Ocean off Long Island, N.Y. The incident spawned widespread speculation about a terror attack and raised concerns about the safety of air travel. As part of its recommendation concerning intelligence efforts, the commission is seeking to ease the flow of sensitive information about possible terror attacks from the spy agencies to aviation security officials. Industry officials applaud the effort. "Airports and airlines are the front line on security," says Spencer Dickerson of the American Association of Airport Executives. …