- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 6, 2002

The federal government is reviewing security procedures to determine whether access to ticketing areas of airports should be restricted after the fatal shootings of three persons at Los Angeles International Airport Thursday.
An Egyptian man fatally shot two persons at an El Al Israeli airline ticket counter before being shot and killed by a security guard.
Current security rules require screening only for access to boarding areas.
Any security-procedure changes at Washington-area airports will be decided by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) rather than local airport officials.
The TSA is phasing in a takeover of security at the nation's airports that is scheduled to be completed in November.
"As far as security-screening requirements, those are set by TSA," Tara Hamilton, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority spokeswoman, said yesterday. "We're at the same level of vigilance we've always been at."
Michael Wascom, Air Transport Association vice president, cautioned against "overreaction" to the airport shooting.
"It's no different from a deranged individual walking into a bank, walking into a post office or walking into a convenience store and opening fire," Mr. Wascom said. "I don't think it's an indictment of our overall security framework. I think it's an isolated incident."
The ATA is a Washington-based trade association that represents major airlines.
Security personnel run the risk of alienating the passengers they try to serve if they are too strict, such as by placing security checkpoints outside of airport doors, Mr. Wascom said.
"Where do you stop?" Mr. Wascom asked. "Do you then screen everyone as soon as they leave their home?"
Travelers waiting for flights or family and friends to arrive at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport yesterday said they weren't too worried about violence in airports, but were more vigilant than usual.
"I think it's a shame, because it's going to make people scared to just walk into an airport," said Theresa Kelley, a D.C. resident on her way to Chicago.
Matthew Scott flew to Reagan Airport from Los Angeles a few hours before Thursday morning's shootings. The captain of his American Airlines flight told passengers about the incident.
But Mr. Scott, who came to Washington on business, doesn't think there is much more that can be done to prevent this kind of violence from occurring.
"How do you build a security system for everyone who has access to an airport?" he asked. "I'm not sure I have an answer for that."
Steve TerMaath of Springfield, who watched his daughter's airplane take off yesterday, said there are just too many ways for a terrorist to get around security.
"The reality is, for every threat we can think of, there's another threat," he said. "There's always a way around it.
"It could have happened anywhere," Mr. TerMaath said.
The Los Angeles airport shooting is far from the only security concern for the aviation industry in recent days.
Airline pilots unions are warning members that terrorists might follow them or try to steal their uniforms and identification. Flight crews in Frankfurt, Germany, Amsterdam and London reported that persons of Middle Eastern descent have been listening in on their conversations in hotels and other places crews hang out between flights.
In addition, the TSA alerted private-plane owners and operators yesterday to be on guard against thefts of their planes by terrorists.
"Terrorists who are no longer able to hijack commercial airliners because of increased security at commercial airports may turn to GA [general aviation] airports and aircraft to conduct operations," the alert said.
David Stempler, president of the Air Travelers Association, said the Los Angeles shooting occurred only days before his group planned to ask the federal government to form a public-private commission to oversee aviation security. The commission would consist of executives from airlines, trade groups and Transportation Department officials.
However, Mr. Stempler said security changes should be made only if an investigation shows a need for them.
"Until we know exactly what happened, I think it's bad to make decisions and draw conclusions," Mr. Stempler said.
Other shootings have occurred at airports in recent years.
In May, a man fatally shot a woman standing in the lobby of New Orleans' Louis Armstrong International Airport. The man told investigators he was Muslim and was angry at people who ridiculed him for wearing a turban.
Another shooting occurred at Hickory Airport in Hickory, N.C., in August 1999, when a man shot and injured a woman in a dispute over money.
A previous Los Angeles International Airport shooting occurred in November 1998, when a suspect in a fatal drive-by shooting led police on a car chase to the airport, where police shot and injured him.
In July 1998, a dispute among Somalian cabdrivers at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport prompted a driver to shoot and kill one driver and injure two others.
Marie Beaudette contributed to this article.


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