Air Travel Security

Bush's Homeland Insecurity: Airport Screeners with Criminal Records were Hired
Air Travel Security

NY Times reports: "An internal investigation at the Homeland Security Department has found that hiring of tens of thousands of airport screeners after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was so haphazard that many screeners were allowed to remain on duty at security checkpoints for weeks or months after it had been determined that they had serious criminal records. The department's inspector general issued a report on the findings on Thursday. It said screeners remained on the payroll and retained their badges even after the findings that they had been convicted on charges as serious as manslaughter. The department often took weeks or months to discharge the screeners, the report found."

US Airport Security Misses Security Risks
Air Travel Security

While the Traffic Safety Administration was busy insulting every foreign visitor to the United States by requiring fingerprints and photographs upon entry, a Sudanese man with bullets in his pocket -- that's right, ammunition -- boarded a flight at Washington's Dulles Airport. The bullets were discovered when he left the plane and went through a metal detector at London's Heathrow Airport. You'd think that with our much-vaunted tight security, the metal detectors at Dulles would have detected the bullets. Or maybe U.S. security forces have more important things to do, like deporting journalists who have the wrong visa, preventing little old ladies who've donated to Greenpeace from boarding their flights, and taking bottles away from babies because they may have toxins in them. (Yes, all those things have really happened.) What's the real purpose of the TSA, making people safer or making them more afraid?

Bush's National Security Failures Keep Mounting: Thousands of Airport Screeners Haven't Had Backgrounds Checked
Air Travel Security

"About 22,000 of the 55,000 airport screeners hired by the government haven't undergone criminal background checks, the chairman of the House Transportation aviation subcommittee said Friday. Rep. John Mica... said he has told the Transportation Security Administration it must speed up the process to ensure qualified people are doing the work. 'It is a concern because one of the reasons we federalized this in the first place was because there hadn't been background checks, or standards for background checks, before September 11'... Normally, screeners are not deployed at airports until they have had criminal history checks by the FBI and by a Justice Department contractor, ChoicePoint Inc., said TSA spokesman Brian Turmail. ChoicePoint also investigates applicants' employment history and interviews their acquaintances by phone, Turmail said." ChoicePoint was the firm used by Jeb and Katherine Harris to purge likely Gore voters from the Florida rolls, by misidentifying them as felons.

Hani Hanjour Got Pilot's License from For-Profit Contractors
Air Travel Security

AP reports, "A suspected Saudi terrorist believed to have piloted the plane that crashed into the Pentagon bypassed the Federal Aviation Administration for his flight licenses.... Hani Saleh Hanjour obtained certification by using private examiners who independently contract with the FAA. That certification allowed him to begin passenger jet training at an Arizona flight school despite having what instructors later described as limited flying skills and an even more limited command of English. The jet training enabled the 30-year-old Hanjour to take the controls of American Airlines Flight 77 on the morning of Sept. 11 and crash it into the Pentagon, killing 188 people including all passengers aboard. Certification of Hanjour illustrates a flaw in the federal system, one official said. An FAA inspector in California who spoke on condition of anonymity told the newspaper a pilot now 'could go all the way through to become a 747 captain, if you will, having never gone before the FAA.'"

Bush Wants to Privatize Air Traffic Control
Air Travel Security

Remember Enron? Bush obviously doesn't. Bush is pushing to privatize Air Traffic Control, so one of his rich buddies can milk the system for all it's worth. "We're absolutely flabbergasted that the administration thinks that aviation security and safety aren't a government function," said Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association President Phil Boyer. "We must never forget that the primary function of air traffic control is public safety. And ATC's role in security was never more evident than on September 11. The administration's position is particularly incomprehensible at a time when the government is taking airport security functions away from private industry and consolidating homeland security into a huge new department."

Post 9-11 Airline Security Measures Have Been Nearly Meaningless
Air Travel Security

Six months after 9-11, gaping security holes exist in the airline system. "Screening" now means "passenger bag matching," but they can't even manage that for connecting flights. Skymarshalls are nowhere to be found, even by pilots. There are only 162 of the CT scanners ($ .7 to $1.4 million each) used to detect explosives, but some 2200 more are needed to scan all bags in the US. "Every time they close down a terminal or airport over a single security breach, while thousands of unscreened bags are dumped into holds, I have to laugh.. We've reacted stupidly and slothfully to the brutal attack of Sept. 11; and the evil ones won't wait forever." So writes Michael Hammerschlag.

Democrats Win Baggage Screening by Federal Employees - But Only For 3 Years
Air Travel Security

Democrats mostly won the battle over using federal employees to screen airport baggage. In a year, all of the nation's screeners will be federal workers. But within 3 years, airports can return to private contractors like Argenbreit, because Republicans insisted on it. Still, Argenbreit is threatening a lawsuit over its lost contracts. Republicans also insisted that federal baggage handlers NOT receive the protections of other federal workers, giving Bush power to hire and fire at will. In other words, Republicans have just created a 28,000 member PATRONAGE machine for Republican hacks.

GOP v. America: Republicans 'DeLay' Upgrade of Baggage Screeners for At Least 2 Years, Possibly Forever
Air Travel Security

In closed-door negotiations, Republicans "DeLayed" upgrading baggage screeners from minimum-wage temps to federal employees for 2 more years. Even then, the law would have a big loophole allowing airports to "opt out of the system and use local law enforcement officials or private security firms for screening functions." In other words, Argenbreit & Co. are STILL in charge of baggage screening for the foreseeable future. And if you don't think Congressional Republicans will find devious ways to break this deal before it ever goes into effect, you haven't been paying close enough attention.

Airline Security: Better Dead than Fed!
Air Travel Security

"The sticking point for the Republicans in improving airline safety in America is the disastrous scenario in which airport security workers receive better job security, higher pay, better training, and better healthcare. Man, is that scary or what? No wonder the Republicans are willing to allow terrorists continued access to our aircraft! There's a Republican principle at stake here, folks: The private sector can always provide better service than the government can. Let's apply this brilliant philosophy to other areas of the government, shall we? Why not turn the armed forces over to a private company? We could solicit bids from various companies wishing to provide national security and give the contract to the lowest bidder. Then we could write the winning company (let's call it "Fred's Army, Inc.") a big check every year and leave our cares behind! I love this! I feel safer already!" So writes the Angry Liberal.

American Airlines Flight Crashes near Kennedy Airport
Air Travel Security

American Airlines flight 587 crashed during takeoff 5 miles from Kennedy Airport, in the Far Rockaway neighborhood of Queens. Flight 587 had just left Kennedy en route to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. It was an airbus A300. 255 passengers and crew are feared dead. Falling debris set off numerous fires.

Why GOP Is Dead Wrong on Airline Security: Part 1
Air Travel Security

"As the New York Times reported on Wednesday, 'Subash Gurung certainly made a mockery of Tom DeLay's airport security plan' that opposes federalizing airport screeners. On November 5th, five days after Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta said there would be 'zero tolerance' with regard to airline security problems, Subash Gurung, 27, a Nepalese man connected to suspects in the September 11th hijackings, made it through a United Airlines security checkpoint at Chicago's O'Hare airport with seven knives, a can of mace, and a stun gun... DeLay, Armey and Bush still contend that a security system based on the current sub-contracted model, with a little more federal oversight, is good enough for America. But don't bet your life on it." So writes BuzzFlash.

For The Love of Their Rent-a-Cop Backers, DeLay, Armey and Bush Sell Out Airport Safety
Air Travel Security

"DeLay and Armey bottled up the Senate bill until they could beat up and, in essence, bribe (principally with targeted district aid deals) just enough House Republicans. They laid down their cudgels last week and beat the Senate proposal 214-218. Defeat of the Senate plan and subsequent adoption of a weaker House Republican substitute, that allows the greedy security companies to remain at the aeronautical trough, was an unmerited vote of confidence in the status quo. The House bill, as Rep. Ken Bentsen, D-Houston, noted, 'refuses to provide the public with what they need: full law enforcement protection at airports.' Perhaps the most unfathomable piece of this show is the White House's acquiescence in DeLay's game-playing. Even in the midst of war, the president and his political handlers have time to fixate on the Republican right. It is a sad permutation on the political dictum to 'dance with the girl that brung you.'"

Bush To Send In The Pros! The FAA Will Hire TEMP WORKERS to Oversee Airport Security!
Air Travel Security

The Bush Administration certainly tries to provide the very best protection for Americans...NOT! "The Federal Aviation Administration plans to hire temporary security workers to be stationed at Lambert Field and other U.S. airports…FAA Administrator Jane Garvey said the agency will hire temporary workers for stints lasting up to six months. The new employees will help oversee operations at screening checkpoints across the country. The FAA will hold job fairs next week in Chicago, New York, Atlanta and Dallas. The new workers could begin their assignments as soon as Nov. 18." Oh well, at least the totalitarian USA PATRIOT Act and the Office of Homeland Security will protect Americans...from Freedom. After all, Bush did say, "There oughta be limits to freedom" and "Things would be a heck of a lot easier if this was a Dictatorship...so long as I'm the Dictator."

Can Skyjackings Be Stopped through Technology?
Air Travel Security

Infoseek founder Steve Kirsh is working on a technological fix to prevent future skyjackings. He suggests installing "'safe mode' panic buttons that put the plane on forced autopilot that cannot be overridden, except in special circumstances." Hirsch invites feedback on his idea. But we have a simpler solution: why not make it impossible for anyone to get into the cabin, using thick locked doors?