- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 26, 2001

Many airline passengers now will have to submit to a shoe inspection if they want to fly. Critics wonder why this security check wasn't required before.
The Federal Aviation Administration said in a Dec. 11 advisory that terrorists trying to hijack airlines in the United States and Europe might try to hide weapons in their shoes. But it didn't require shoes to be screened until after a man was subdued Saturday while apparently trying to light an explosive in his sneakers during a Paris-to-Miami flight.
"They have been in the business of protecting the airlines too long," said Kathleen Flynn, a member of the presidential commission on airline security formed after the crash of TWA Flight 800.
It wasn't the first time that the FAA was spurred into action by a serious security breach.
The agency didn't require airlines to ensure that luggage was not loaded on an airplane unless its owner also boarded until after a bomb in an unaccompanied bag blew up Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988. Most airports still don't have machines to inspect checked baggage for the plastic explosives used in that bombing. And until Congress acted following the September 11 terrorist attacks, low-paid, high-turnover workers filled screener jobs at airport security checkpoints.
"This is classic FAA. They are always reactive. They never get out front," said former Transportation Department Inspector General Mary Schiavo, a lawyer now representing victims of airline accidents.
"They were taking their lead from the carriers, who did not want further delays for the holidays," she said. "The FAA won't take measures that cost the airlines money, and they won't take security measures that could cause delays. Law enforcement requires both."
FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown noted that the agency had issued a warning before Saturday's incident that shoes are a potential hiding place for weapons. "There was guidance out on this prior to this event."
But the order, known as a security directive, did not come until after the incident. The agency said only that the order contained detailed instructions for airlines and airports to follow.
Airline and airport officials, nationally and locally, said they were following the new FAA directive. Some said they had been doing it since the attacks; others said the shoe checks are new.
At Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport, Delta Air Lines began searching passengers' shoes at security checkpoints and at the gate Monday, spokesman Reid Davis said.
AirTran Airways also began checking passengers' shoes Monday, spokesman Tad Hutcheson said.
Some airports reported that passenger screeners had already started checking shoes at random.
"I had to bring in my boot-puller for all of these cowboy boots," said Mike Johnson, airport Police Chief in Boise, Idaho.

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