- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 2, 2002

ASSOCIATED PRESS
At airports, the war on terrorism is being fought with 30-year-old weapons.
Metal detectors and X-ray machines used to screen passengers and carry-on luggage date from the 1970s, when they were deployed to prevent hijackings.
They can't detect plastic explosives, such as those hidden in the shoes of a man aboard a Paris-to-Miami flight on Dec. 22. A passenger, Richard C. Reid, was arrested after American Airlines attendants saw him try to touch a lighted match to his sneakers.
"Most equipment that is deployed is a generation old," said Rep. John L. Mica, Florida Republican and chairman of the House aviation subcommittee. "You need highly sophisticated equipment that will detect explosive materials."
Even the current metal detectors could be replaced with more modern equipment, former FAA security chief Billie Vincent said.
"Given the level of threat, we do not want to grandfather anything," Mr. Vincent said.
Developing and deploying such equipment will be the job of the new Transportation Security Administration, which is to take control of airline security by Feb. 19.
But President Bush's nominee to head the agency, John Magaw, is still awaiting confirmation by the Senate.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat, blocked the Senate from approving Mr. Magaw, a former head of the Secret Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, according to a congressional aide speaking on condition of anonymity. Mr. Harkin acted after Republicans stopped the Senate from voting on a Democratic plan to reauthorize farm programs through 2006, the aide said.
Mr. Mica has asked Mr. Bush to use an interim process known as recess appointment to get Mr. Magaw in the job while the Senate mulls his confirmation.
"The Richard Reid case is yet another sign that we need to bring immediate focus to our new transportation security agency," Mr. Mica said. "The traveling public needs to know that someone is in charge and taking action now."
Transportation Security Administration spokesman Paul Takemoto said the new agency is looking at new technology to help screen passengers. The Federal Aviation Administration is helping develop such equipment at its technical center in Atlantic City, N.J.
Capt. Steve Luckey, chairman of the Air Line Pilots Association's national security committee, said he was concerned that equipment at airports doesn't screen passengers for explosives.
"The technology just isn't there to keep up with the demand," Capt. Luckey said. "We're working toward that in the future."
One low-tech solution is on the way; FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said the agency plans to hire another 90 bomb-sniffing dogs to be deployed at 25 airports. There now are 180 dogs at 39 airports.
Former Transportation Department Inspector General Mary Schiavo said the FAA concentrated on singling out some passengers for extensive searches rather than developing equipment to screen everyone for explosives.
"They really thought they had the problem solved with their profiling," said Miss Schiavo, now a lawyer representing airline accident victims. "They really did not place too much effort in the equipment at all."


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