- The Washington Times - Friday, September 14, 2001

Taking a flight from Boston's Logan International Airport, the alleged origin of the World Trade Center skyjacking terrorists, to Saint John, New Brunswick (with a stopover in Halifax, Nova Scotia), is fraught with security risks, and not just from terrorists. The calls for an immediate military strike, as urged by former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, which would not be "concerned about killing even innocent civilian by-standers," will not make our country secure against terrorists, either domestic or international.
For more than 30 years, I have been flying out of Logan on international flights. The Big Dig project began then, creating a third Harbor Tunnel from Boston Harbor to the airport and rebuilding the downtown harbor wharves, South Station surface transportation center and the major southeast highways north, west and south of the city.
And ever since the major renovations began on the airport side, Boston's Logan International Airport has been turned upside down. To understand what this has meant for airline passengers, imagine yourself living in Providence, R.I., as I did, a 45-minute to an hour's drive to Logan, depending on traffic. About 10 years ago, most international flight passengers in eastern Massachusetts, R.I. and Connecticut would choose to fly overseas out of Boston, and many domestic flight passengers made the same choice, because Logan is the largest airport in New England.
But several years ago, Southwest Airlines opened terminals in Manchester, N.H. and Providence respectively — about equal driving distances north and south of Boston. Cheaper fares combined with the dislocations around Logan Airport during the Big Dig airport renovations and Harbor Tunnel construction have increased passengers at Providence's Greene Airport tenfold in the period since Southwest and other airlines expanded service there.
When I was at Logan this summer, I drove into terra incognita. Once I had passed through the Sumner Tunnel and gone into the airport road to the terminals, I turned to parking Terminal C — the same one used by the alleged terrorists to park a rental car from Portland, Maine, before boarding the doomed passenger planes. But once one has parked in Terminal C, one must find one's way to a terminal.
Since I was flying to Halifax on Air Canada, I made my way to the international departure terminal. I took an elevator through a building still under construction to a skywalk to another side of the airport road, through still-unfinished and, on that day, empty buildings. I walked down a stairway filled with debris, open walls, unfinished passageways and structures. I came to a scaffolding with handwriting on a piece of cardboard pointing to the direction where I was to walk to the inside of the terminal. It was a highly disconcerting experience. As one might expect, I tried to reassure myself that the security experts at Logan must have some undetectable way of monitoring these half-erected, unkempt and dark labyrinths for malingerers and terrorists.
The Massachusetts Port Authority's (Massport) Web site has an update on the Big Dig part of the massive construction project around the hub, its harbor and Logan International Airport. The Web site offered information of possible use in the decision of the terrorists to use Logan for the Tuesday skyjackings.
"Everywhere you look," it begins, "at Logan it may still look confusing." Since the skyjackings out of Logan, we have now learned that special agents with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) found in June 2000 that 600 machines used there to detect traces of explosives in passenger bags went unused, and security staff there were never trained to use them. The FAA found that plainclothes agents were easily able to breach security at the airport. The FAA also found that Logan Airport security personnel hired to screen luggage for pipe bombs and weapons routinely failed to detect them.
From 1997 through early 1999, the FAA found at least 136 security violations at Logan, from unauthorized access to parked planes to uninspected baggage being placed on planes. Massport, which operates Logan, was fined $178,000 for the security violations. In the summer of 1999, a teen-ager climbed over airport security fences, walked 2 miles across the tarmac, opened an idle British Airways 747 jet headed to London, stowed himself away and was not detected until the plane landed in London.
All those problems and more, states Massport Aviation Director Thomas Kinton, make Logan a natural target, because transcontinental flights filled with jet fuel could be commandeered soon after takeoff. A blind strike at suspected terrorists, killing innocent civilians — or, to use Mr. Eagleburger's word, "not worrying particularly about collateral" lives killed — will not make many of us who use Logan Airport feel any safer. It will only deepen our sense of grief, and raise questions about our leaders.

Carl Senna is the author of the biography: "Colin Powell, A Man of War and Peace."


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