- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 19, 2002

A balance between airline security and passenger convenience must be found in combating terrorism, Israel's transportation minister and U.S. representatives said yesterday.

"Our most important achievement, in spite of current attempts at terrorism, is that Israelis are not afraid to fly," said Ephraim Sneh, Israel's transportation minister. "The danger today, that because of recent measures, is that Americans will hate to fly."

Mr. Sneh and U.S. officials spoke at a luncheon for the three-day International Conference and Exhibition on Aviation Security: Confronting International Terror.

He said he believes that profiling passengers is essential to providing efficient security. "Personally, I believe a more flexible system of profiling is needed," he said. "A more rigid system could cause problems. We should not be afraid of this word."

In Israel, digital cameras watch passengers going through the airport. Air marshals are stationed on every flight, and cockpit doors are reinforced.

"El Al hasn't had a hijacking in over 25 years," said Rep. Jane Harman, California Democrat. "Their profiling system, which focuses on a set of personal traits rather than ethnicity, deserves much of the credit for that."

She said that learning from Israel is beneficial.

"To make America safe, we need to adapt the smartest techniques of our allies, and the Israelis have perfected aviation safety."

John Magaw, the head of the Transportation Security Administration, joined members of Congress in lauding the procedures of Israel's El Al airlines. They said El Al's screening process for hiring airport security is tighter, that the government intelligence network is more advanced and that "smart profiling" is especially beneficial.

Mrs. Harman criticized the U.S. implementation of new security measures, especially bomb-detection machines.

"I worry the Transportation Security Administration is going at it the wrong way by throwing money and people at it," she said. "It's a dumb strategy."

The new machines weigh about 7,000 pounds and are too heavy for the airports to handle. Many airports would have to reinforce their floors and build around the massive machines, she said.

She said airport officials should wait for technology that would make screening luggage less cumbersome.

Five U.S. airports will use private baggage screeners rather than government workers under a two-year program to assess security procedures put in place after the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Department of Transportation said yesterday.

The agency plans to hire more than 50,000 employees to operate explosive-detection machines and examine the more than 1 billion bags checked annually by U.S. air travelers. The agency plans to put as many as 1,100 explosive-detection machines and 4,800 to 6,000 trace-detectors at 429 U.S. airports to meet a year-end deadline set by Congress.

Boeing Co. and Siemens AG's U.S. unit won a $508 million government contract to install, maintain and train operators for the explosive-detection machines made by L-3 Communications Holdings Inc. and InVision Technologies Inc. Lockheed Martin Corp. received a $350 million contract to complete the transition from private to government screeners.

Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration has ordered foreign airlines flying to the United States to reinforce their cockpit doors within two months and install stronger doors by April 9, 2003.

U.S. airlines have reinforced doors and face the same April deadline for installing new doors, which are designed to prevent terrorists from entering the cockpit and taking over a plane, which happened on four airliners September 11.

Sean Salai contributed to this report.


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