Explosion Renews Calls to Tighten Anti-Terrorism Security Measures

Article excerpt

With suspicions of terrorist involvement swirling around it, the crash of TWA Flight 800 has brought renewed calls for tighter, more advanced and more expensive security measures in the aviation industry.

But TWA executives and employees say it is too early to say how security could be improved until the investigation clarifies whether there were any preventable lapses. Their professional faith in the comparative safety of flight remained unshaken by the crash, which claimed the lives of 230 people, among them 53 TWA employees and their relatives.

"I would get on an airplane today and fly anywhere in the world," said Sherry Cooper, president of the St. Louis branch of the International Federation of Flight Attendants. She spoke at a news conference on Saturday.

The FBI and others have suggested a range of intensified anti-terrorism measures that could be deployed:

Replacing X-ray machines with airport versions of the much more sensitive CT-scan machines used by hospitals to detect tiny tumors.

Performing routine physical searches of cargo and baggage.

Giving greater license for the FBI and intelligence agencies to tap phones and plug into the new technology in search of advance warning of terrorist attacks.

But it is unclear whether passengers, the government or the airline industry will tolerate the ramifications of some of those measures. More careful scrutiny of passengers and their baggage is tedious, time-consuming and likely to try the patience of passengers who could be required to be at airports hours ahead of their flights. The CT-scan-like equipment, which might detect even plastic explosives, is expensive and the cost would likely be passed onto passengers in higher fares or special fees. …

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