- The Washington Times - Monday, February 18, 2002

CHANTILLY (AP) Federal officials yesterday assumed responsibility for airport security and pledged both to protect travelers and to treat them with courtesy. Some passengers noticed their extra vigilance.
The second major deadline in the new airline security law passed as smoothly as the first, when airlines last month began inspecting checked baggage for explosives. A new federal agency, rather than the airline industry and Federal Aviation Administration, now oversees aviation security.
"As of now, we will make sure we're observing the screening and make sure it's being done properly," said John Magaw, undersecretary for transportation security, after arriving at Washington Dulles International Airport from Miami.
With the same screeners staffing security checkpoints and even airline officials helping to oversee the operations, passengers at first will not see much of a difference, Mr Magaw said.
Yesterday's deadline was the first step in a nine-month transition from private security companies to a federal work force to screen passengers and baggage.
What passengers should notice are the chairs they can use when they are asked to remove their shoes to be checked for explosives. In addition, travelers inspected with hand-held wands will have their valuables in front of them.
"I hope that they'll notice a slight difference in the courtesy," Mr. Magaw said. "Hopefully, they won't notice anything much different than that."
Some arriving passengers at Dulles, where a plane was hijacked on September 11 and crashed into the Pentagon, said security was tighter than they had seen since the attacks.
"We commented on it," said Robin Cloninger of Morristown, N.J., arriving from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with two classmates at Loyola College in Baltimore. "A lot more people were getting their bags searched, taken off the line."
But Mike Adams, a ticket agent for AirTran Airways at Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport, said he did not see anything different.
"It's all internal," Mr. Adams said. "Security's security, so I don't think you'll see the government do anything different."
As he sat on a suitcase in the Dulles baggage claim area and waited for his ride, Mark Bontrager of Springfield said it did not matter who was supervising security "as long as you hold them to the standards." Looking up from his book, he said, "I don't think it can ever be foolproof, but I think it's better. Taking the time to do the job right is what's most important."
To Renier Kraakman of Cambridge, Mass., escorting his 11-year-old daughter to her flight at Boston's Logan International Airport, there was little evident difference.
"It's just for show," he said. "But if it makes people feel good, it's worthwhile."
Kendra Lynn of Tulsa, Okla., said it did not take longer for her to pass through security yesterday at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. But she said she would not complain even if federal oversight meant more thorough checks. "We're thrilled with any kind of excess screening," she said.
Security workers said they were aware of the federal supervision.
"I'm nervous," said Girish Vakil, a security worker for Argenbright Security Inc. at Dallas-Forth Worth. He added: "I'm a good worker, never failed a test."

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