Legislation Announced to Toughen Aviation Security
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Senators on an anti-terrorism commission announced legislation Thursday to appoint security managers at high-risk airports and to require a system for notifying passengers of terrorist threats.
The measure goes beyond Bush administration proposals for dealing with air terrorism. But sponsors said they expected unanimous support for the actions originally proposed by the presidential commission that looked into the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.
Representatives of some relatives of victims of the December 1988 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, said they support the legislation, which is to be introduced Friday. But a lawyer for another relatives group said it falls far short of what is needed.
The Lockerbie bombing, blamed on unidentified terrorists, killed all 259 people aboard the London-New York flight and 11 people on the ground.
″It’s essential that we proceed,″ said Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., a member of the now-defunct presidential commission. ″The terrorists are not giving up, and we can’t either.″
″It can no longer be business as usual with the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and the airlines,″ Lautenberg told a news conference on the Capitol lawn.
Lautenberg and fellow commission members Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, R-N.Y., and Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn., all said they expected strong bipartisan support and Bush administration backing for the bill, which is subject to change as it moves through Congress.
The Senate bill, to be matched by a similar House measure next week, would give special FAA managers responsibility for security at airports where terrorists are considered likely to operate.
It also would require the FAA and the FBI to assess the security threat to domestic airports and set up security screening of mail and cargo.
The bill would prohibit selective notification of government employees when there is a threat and would order that guidelines be set up for notifying the public when there is a credible threat against a flight.
George Williams, representing one group of victims’ relatives, told the news conference the bill would cover most relatives’ concerns and he added, ″God speed this legislation.″
Michael Lemov, a Washington lawyer representing a rival relatives group, told reporters before the news conference that the legislation fails to create a public oversight board recommended by family members and sets up too many hurdles before the public can be notified of a threat.
Lemov said Congress should create a separate agency to handle the aviation terrorist threat.
Transportation Secretary Samuel Skinner and FAA Administrator James Busey announced several initial steps to meet commission recommendations last week, including the appointment of top officials in the department to oversee aviation security.
Skinner, at a speech Thursday, said he expects to submit to President Bush a full response to the commission report in July.