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Government Moves To Tighten Aviation Security

June 15, 1990

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Transportation Department ordered airlines Thursday to use more- sensitive X-ray machines and to match all checked luggage to passengers on international flights.

In a partial response to a presidential commission that called for ″major reforms″ in government response to air terrorism, Transportation Secretary Samuel Skinner also announced creation of a new office of Intelligence and Security. A new assistant administrator’s post also was added to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The orders addressed only a handful of the scores of recommendations issued by the seven-member commission in May after its examination of the Dec. 21, 1988, bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, in which 270 people were killed over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Panel chairwoman Ann McLaughlin said she was ″very encouraged″ by the initial actions. ″They’re doing what they can to make the kinds of changes we all know are necessary,″ she said.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., a commission member, also praised the actions and said he was working on legislation that would meet some commission goals: Federal security managers at domestic airports, tighter controls on cargo, better training of airport personnel and compensation for terrorism victims.

None of those items was addressed in Skinner’s actions.

Another panel member, Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, R-N.Y., said Skinner’s response was a ″good start,″ but he urged quick appointment of FAA security managers at key airports ″because we cannot allow the present system to continue.″

The commission called for preemptive and retaliatory military strikes against terrorists, a system to notify passengers of credible terrorist threats and several other steps to avert terrorist strikes both in the United States and abroad.

FAA Administrator James Busey said Thursday he would convene a government team of researchers, security specialists, engineers and explosives experts to recommend ″an integrated security research and development program″ to be implemented by Sept. 1.

An FAA program to install sophisticated bomb detectors at 150 high-risk airports around the world has been stalled since the commission report. The panel recommended that it be set aside so more-effective methods of bomb detection could be explored.

Busey said airlines would be required to replace older, less sensitive X- ray machines with more modern ones that have higher detection standards for carry-on luggage. Metal detectors passengers walk through also must be upgraded, he said.

Airlines flying outside the United States will have to further inspect checked-in luggage and match it to passengers, and will be required to report to the FAA any threat that could affect U.S. civil aviation.

″Taken together, these initiatives represent building blocks in a system that will justify even higher levels of passenger confidence in the safety of air travel, already our safest mode of transportation,″ Skinner said. He said the administration was still reviewing several other commission recommendations.

Skinner said the new office to oversee all transportation security would be headed by Coast Guard Vice Admiral Clyde E. Robbins, who will leave his post as commander of the Coast Guard’s Pacific area and Maritime Defense Zone.

No appointment was announced for the new FAA position.

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