- The Washington Times - Monday, September 25, 2006

Homeland Security Department officials are easing the ban on liquids aboard commercial aircraft and beginning today will allow passengers to carry on small amounts of gels and some aerosols, as well as drinks purchased from airport vendors beyond the security checkpoint.

Lipsticks and lotions will be screened and allowed on board, but they must be in containers no larger than 3 ounces and carried in one-quart, sealed plastic bags.

“These new measures will maintain security, while taking a common-sense approach,” said Kip Hawley, assistant secretary of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Exceptions will be made for baby and medical needs in quantities larger than 3 ounces. However, travelers must be prepared to present these items for inspection.

“The secret of getting through security smoothly is to de-clutter your bag,” he said.

All liquids were banned in carry-on luggage and passengers were prohibited from bringing beverages aboard aircraft after the arrests last month of numerous terrorist suspects in the Britain. Those arrested were suspected of plotting to bomb trans-Atlantic flights.

Officials at the time raised the advisory system threat level to Code Red, which signals a severe risk of attack, but the alert level has since been reduced to Code Orange, which indicates a high risk.

Canada also will be adjusting rules to reflect changes in the U.S., and Britain is expected to ease its aviation travel rules as well.

“We don’t anticipate changing that overall aviation threat level any time in the near future,” Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Michael P. Jackson said yesterday at a press conference at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.

Officials are increasing inspections of inventory sold by airport vendors in secure areas and performing more employee security checks, Mr. Hawley said.

“It doesn’t make sense for us to have our [transportation security officers] out there fishing out lip gloss and mascara in the gate area,” he said.

Clark Kent Ervin, former Homeland Security inspector general, criticized the decision to ease the rules.

“Either liquids and gels that are harmless in and of themselves can be combined to make a dangerous bomb or they can’t be,” Mr. Ervin said.

“If, as TSA warned when the ban was instituted, they can be dangerous, and if the terrorists remain determined to strike the aviation sector, and if we still have no technology to counter this threat, relaxing the ban makes no sense.”

It seems, he said, that “TSA is putting the convenience of the traveler ahead of security.”

The new rules, Mr. Hawley said, are based on explosives testing and information from the FBI.

“While this novel type of liquid explosives is now an ongoing part of the terrorist playbook and must be dealt with, we now know enough to say that a total ban is no longer needed from a security point of view,” he said.

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