Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Suspicious Airline Incidents Will Head Straight to TSA ; Transportation Security Administration Directive Responds to Pilot Concerns

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Suspicious Airline Incidents Will Head Straight to TSA ; Transportation Security Administration Directive Responds to Pilot Concerns

Article excerpt

To ensure it has a bird's eye view of every potential problem, the Transportation Security Administration is now requiring all airlines and airports to report immediately any potential security threats.

The move is controversial: It is praised by security experts as a key step in ensuring another 9/11 does not happen, while airlines see a bureaucratic nuisance in the requirement to rapidly report incidents that may be insignificant.

In October, a Monitor story highlighted the lack of a standard centralized reporting system for airline employees to report suspicious activity, things like passengers videotaping the cockpit area, spending excessive amounts of time in the lavatory, or suddenly rushing to the front of the plane and then backing off. The 9/11 commission recommended some kind of centralized reporting system as key to avoiding another terrorist attack. The goal is to have every dot of information in one place, so they can be connected.

"It was 19 minutes from the first hijacking to the first plane hitting the first tower," says Mark Hatfield Jr., director of communications for the TSA. By looking at such incidents in real time "from a high altitude perspective we can see patterns, anomalies, trends that give us a much better sense of what may be developing or clues to potential terrorist activities that you can't see from a ground-level perspective."

This TSA directive is one of several recommendations of the 9/11 commission designed to improve aviation security that will soon be implemented. The intelligence reform bill passed by Congress last week will also require more effective screening of passenger baggage as well as authorizes funds to improve screening of cargo, most of which currently is loaded onto planes without being checked. The bill also upgrades security on pilots' licenses and standardizes drivers' licenses to make them harder to forge. …

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