Legislative Wrap-Up

By Anderson, Teresa | Security Management, December 1996 | Go to article overview

Legislative Wrap-Up


Anderson, Teresa, Security Management


The 104th Congress, which has now adjourned, considered several security-related measures during its 1994-1996 session. Many provisions, such as those on antiterrorism measures and airport security, were spurred by tragedies such as the Oklahoma City bombing and the explosion of TWA Flight 800. Other bills, such as the telecommunications act, addressed new challenges and risks created by technology. Because it is the end of a legislative cycle, any bills that did not become law are automatically dead and must be reintroduced in the 105th Congress. Following is an over-view of the fate of security-related proposals of the 104th Congress and a look ahead to the security issues that may be taken up in the 105th Congress.

Aviation security. Provisions from several bills designed to tighten aviation security were included in a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) authorization bill that was passed into law (PL 104). The law provides funding for the FAA for two years and mandates airport security standards.

The law requires that airlines and airports conduct background checks on all employees that screen baggage, passengers, or cargo. It also mandates that the FAA certify companies that provide security screening and develop training, testing, and performance standards for screening personnel.

The FAA must also evaluate explosives detection technology and order airports to install the highest quality equipment. (Bomb-sniffing dogs may also be deployed if necessary.) This equipment must be replaced with newer equipment when it becomes available. To determine whether new equipment is more effective, the FAA must consult with the National Academy of Sciences before requiring additional or updated technology.

The law requires that the FBI and FAA work together to perform threat and vulnerability assessments of high risk airports every three years. The FAA must also conduct a study on the effectiveness of current airline security measures and determine whether these duties should be transferred to airport officials. Additionally, the FAA is instructed to develop computer passenger profiling systems - in conjunction with law enforcement and intelligence agencies-to help detect passengers that are most likely to pose a safety threat.

The law does not include greater wiretapping authority for federal law enforcement or a study on taggants - chemical markers used to identify explosives. These provisions were originally included in a House airline security bill but did not make it into the authorization package that became law.

Another airline security bill (H.R. 3536), introduced by John Duncan (R-TN), passed the House but was not considered by the Senate. It would have required that air carriers conduct more comprehensive preemployment screening of pilots. The bill would have prohibited any defamation or invasion of privacy action brought by a pilot against a party supplying information.

A similar bill (S. 1461), which would also have provided immunity to those providing information on pilots, never made it out of the Senate Commerce Committee.

Stalking. The proposal to make stalking a federal crime has become law (PL 104-201). Though all fifty states had enacted similar measures, these laws did not protect against stalkers that crossed state lines to pursue their victims. The federal law also includes a section prohibiting those convicted of domestic violence from owning a firearm.

Telecommunications. A telecommunications bill that was reintroduced after a lengthy battle in the 103rd Congress was signed into law this session. The law (PL 104-104) allows greater competition in the local telephone, long distance telephone, and cable television industries. Under the bill, alarm companies will face competition from Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOCs) that were previously unable to enter the alarm monitoring business.

After a six-year adjustment period, RBOCs will be allowed to branch into the alarm business. …

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