Gore announces proposals to fight air terrorism
Web posted at: 6:30 p.m. EDT
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A $300 million budget for counter-terrorism measures, better screening of airline passengers, and more teams of bomb-sniffing dogs were among the measures Vice President Al Gore recommended Thursday to boost airport security.
The proposals were developed by the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security, which Gore heads. The panel was formed after the July 17 explosion of TWA Flight 800 off Long Island, which killed 230 people. There has been no determination of the cause of the crash.
The recommendations will go to President Clinton on Monday.
The commission wants the government to install state-of-the-art bomb-detecting equipment in airports and to fund the research and development necessary to make the technology more effective and readily available. If Clinton approves the measures, he will have to submit a $300 million budget addendum to cover the costs.
The proposal also calls for a study of which U.S. airports are most vulnerable to terrorist attacks, a "significant" increase in the number of bomb-sniffing dog teams, a mandatory full baggage match between passengers and their luggage and better screening of passengers through computerized profiles.
Airport security personnel would be trained to determine how great a security risk a passenger might be, and investigate accordingly.
The American Civil Liberties Union said it would fight any efforts to subject passengers to a higher level of screening based on their race or religion.
"Passengers not legitimately under suspicion should not have to fear that their private effects and private lives will be held up to public scrutiny," said ACLU Legislative Counsel Gregory Nojeim. "Safety and privacy will not be assured if people are targeted for searches based on incorrect criteria instead of evidence."
However, Gore said it was unlikely that every passenger would be put through every level of security. He said security checks for air cargo also could be increased, but did not specify how.
"These actions are tough, they are do-able, and we're going to get them in place quickly and effectively," Gore said.
Another major change also was proposed by the commission: After a plane crash, victims' families would be notified not by the airlines, as has been the case, but by the National Transportation Safety Board. Its staff would be trained by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which already has experience with natural disasters.
Gore said the commission suggested the change after hearing stories told by families of crash victims.
Although some airlines have gone to great lengths to be compassionate toward families, Gore said, "It's not really fair to airlines or families to ask airlines to perform this responsibility in the immediate aftermath of the event."
The panel acknowledged that after a crash, airline officials have their own burdens: the injuries or deaths of employees and friends, as well as economic and legal issues confronting the company.
"We do know from other experiences that the Federal Emergency Management system has developed a good way to notify victims of natural disasters," Gore said. "There's a general agreement that they know how to do it quite well."
Also, since NTSB staff are often the first people at the scene of a plane crash, the vice president said it makes sense to shift the duty of notifying families to that agency.
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