White House Boosts Security at Airports

By Larson, Ruth | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 6, 1996 | Go to article overview

White House Boosts Security at Airports


Larson, Ruth, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


The Clinton administration yesterday unveiled a series of new airport security measures, including computer profiling of passengers and accelerated deployment of new explosive-detection systems at airports nationwide.

"We may never see an end to terrorism, but we are sure going to do our level best to combat it," Vice President Al Gore said at a news conference. The announcement followed the first in a series of public hearings of the Airline Safety and Security Commission, which he heads.

The commission will formally present its initial set of airport security recommendations to President Clinton on Monday.

The president plans to submit a supplemental budget request to Congress for $300 million to pay for the new counterterrorism efforts, primarily new detection equipment, Mr. Gore said.

The new security measures could mean delays for some air travelers, especially those who fit particular profile criteria. Passengers traveling alone or infrequent fliers are considered to be greater risks of being potential terrorists, profiling experts say. Some could be detained for questioning.

The new explosive-detection machines may also create airport delays because they scan bags more slowly than the familiar X-ray devices now in use. For example, the CTX-5000, the only FAA-certified device now on the market, can only check about 125 bags an hour, according to Carol B. Hallett, president of the Air Transport Association, an airline trade group.

The profiling option is already coming under fire from the American Civil Liberties Union. At yesterday's hearing, ACLU Legislative Counsel Gregory T. Nojeim urged the commission to reject the use of profiling or computer databases to identify passengers who present potential security risks.

"At the airport ticket counter, passengers check only their luggage, not their rights to personal security, privacy and equality," Mr. Nojeim said.

He said profiling amounted to little more than a set of stereotypes, used to justify treating some passengers who "fit the profile" like potential criminals. In particular, the ACLU opposes profiling based on characteristics such as race, sex, religion or national origin.

But Capt. Randolph Babbitt of the Air Line Pilots Association said profiling represented a welcome improvement over the current system. "For too long, the aviation security system has spent enormous resources looking for the `needle in the haystack' by screening each and every passenger."

Mr. Gore acknowledged that no single solution will solve security problems posed by the growing terrorist threat to air travelers. "There is no silver bullet," he told the commission.

Accordingly, the commission has recommended a system of "multiple layers of defense" to combat a growing terrorist threat. …

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