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Bush offers compromise on airport security bill

Bush talks to business leaders in New York on Wednesday.  

(CNN) -- With legislation aimed at improving airport security stalled in the Senate, the Bush administration offered a proposal Wednesday that would compromise on the issue of making airport security screeners federal employees, CNN has learned.

Knives and box cutters that slipped past airport security were reportedly the weapons used by the hijackers who turned three airplanes into weapons that destroyed the World Trade Center and damaged the Pentagon.

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta met with key senators on both sides of the aisle Wednesday after Republicans blocked Democratic efforts to bring the bill to the Senate floor.

Mineta's proposal would put the federal government in charge of security screening, but would not necessarily make all workers doing the screening federal agents, according to a senior Republican aide.

Under the plan, after a transitional period of 18 months, Mineta would make an airport-by-airport determination on whether to make the existing security screeners federal employees or to contract the work out.

Based on the documents CNN obtained, the administration argued that this would make the process of transitioning to federal control much easier than simply switching control to a new federal agency.

Using contract employees at some airports, the administration argued, would also "preserve greater flexibility for the federal government to impose standards and to discipline or remove screeners who are not performing up to expectations." (Full story)

Reagan National Airport is scheduled to reopen Thursday morning for the first time since being shut down after the September 11 attacks.

Should airport security screeners be federal employees?

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Listen to tapes from police and fire department dispatchers in those first moments after the attack on the WTC in New York City.

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CNN's Deborah Feyerick explains there had been at least a half-dozen terrorist plots against the U.S. in the last decade before September 11 (October 2)

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Other developments:

• Retired Persian Gulf Gen. Barry McCaffrey said in an e-mail exchange last month that those against the United States in its war on terrorism would "be killed suddenly, in significant numbers and without warning." A U.S. military official who was shown McCaffrey's comments said they do not contain any national secrets, but they do accurately reflect the strategy the United States has adopted. (Full story)

• Some units of the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division have been placed on a heightened state of alert, but were not deployed as of Wednesday, according to a senior Defense Department official speaking on the condition of anonymity.

• A federal grand jury Wednesday indicted four Middle Eastern men arrested in the Seattle area last week in connection with a scheme to obtain licenses to haul hazardous material. Indictments of others involved in the case are expected soon.

• A federal court ordered the release of an Afghan man Wednesday after the government admitted he was arrested by mistake Sunday when his flight arrived in the United States. Sources said the man jailed on bank fraud charges, Muhammed Arif, is a prominent anti-Taliban leader supporting U.S. efforts in Afghanistan. (Full story)

• President Bush met with national business leaders Wednesday and told them Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill was suggesting to Congress a new economic stimulus package of between $60 billion and $75 billion to encourage consumer confidence and business investment and to help workers displaced by the terrorist attacks. (Full story)

• Confidence soared on Wall Street in reaction to the president's proposal. Both the Dow Jones Industrial and the Nasdaq rallied, with the Dow closing above 9,000 for the first time since the market resumed trading after the September 11 attacks. (Full story)

• Security measures will be beefed up for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City in an agreement made after Utah officials and Olympic organizers met with federal law enforcement officials here Wednesday.

• Coast Guard officials said Wednesday that to improve security all merchant ships entering U.S. ports would be required beginning Thursday to give 96 hours notice, up from 24 hours notice, before coming into port, to give authorities more time to conduct computer checks of the crew, passengers and cargo.

• U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, at a stopover before arriving in Saudi Arabia to begin a four-nation coalition-building trip, hinted to reporters that the United States might know Osama bin Laden's general whereabouts. "I have a little bit of a handle, but I don't have coordinates," he said. (Full story)

• The FBI said Wednesday an attack on the driver of a Greyhound bus Wednesday morning was "an isolated incident," and not an act of terrorism. Six people, including the assailant, died when the bus crashed near Manchester, Tennessee. (Full story)

• The Bush administration has put pressure on the government of Qatar to rein in the al-Jazeera cable network, which the United States believes is unbalanced and encourages anti-American sentiment in the Middle East, the State Department said Wednesday.

• A federal court in Virginia Wednesday cited concern that Luis Martinez-Flores might flee and ordered the Salvadoran man held without bond until his trial on charges he provided fraudulent documents to help two suspected September 11 hijackers obtain Virginia identification cards. (Full story)

• The passengers on board the hijacked jet that crashed in western Pennsylvania "engaged in a fight for their lives" against the suspected terrorists who seized the plane, an FBI deputy director told a House panel Wednesday. (Full story)

• Working with other countries, the Clinton administration had two plans in the mid-to-late 1990s to kill or capture Osama bin Laden, but neither came to fruition, sources told CNN Wednesday. (Full story)

• Reporting from inside Afghanistan, CNN journalist Kamal Hyder reported Wednesday the Taliban has stepped up patrols in the eastern part of the country to search for sympathizers of exiled King Mohammed Zahir Shah. (Full story)

• The supreme leader of Afghanistan called on Islamic scholars Wednesday to help people prepare "for a holy war" in the wake of terrorist attacks against the United States.

• Travel-related activities, which dropped off sharply immediately following September 11, have been on the rise ever since, according to an American Automobile Association travel survey released Wednesday. (Full story)

• Afghanistan's ruling Taliban said Wednesday it is willing to hand over Osama bin Laden if evidence he was involved with the September 11 attacks is passed to them directly. The Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, Mullaha Abdul Salem Zaeef, told CNN's Larry King that negotiation through Pakistan was not acceptable. (Full story)

• Russian President Vladimir Putin, NATO and European Union officials were reported Wednesday to be working out how to translate into action their pledge of support to the United States. Putin is expected to urge EU leaders to forge closer security ties with Russia as part of a global fight against terrorism. (Full story)

• The latest figures put the number of people confirmed dead in the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York at 369. Of those, 310 have been identified. Police department figures indicate 4,986 people are missing. (Recovery information)


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