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Flashpoints USA with Bryant Gumbel and Gwen Ifill Photo: Bryant Gumbel and Gwen Ifill
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Sacrifices of Security - 7.15.03
In Focus  :  Airport Security  :  Admiral James Loy Interview
About the Series
Flashpoints USA with Bryant Gumbel and Gwen Ifill is an innovative public affairs series from PBS that brings together both compelling examinations of critical issues and a dynamic pairing of two of the most respected names in journalism.


Television Poll What do Americans think about issues of security in the post-9/11 world? View the results of the Flashpoints USA nationwide survey.



Admiral James Loy
Guns in the Cockpit
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Profiling Airport Security USA Patriot Act


Gwen Ifill talks with Admiral James Loy, the head of the Transportation Security Administration about the status of security in our nation's airports.

Gwen Ifill:
That's exactly what Admiral James Loy wants to hear. He's the head of the Transportation Security Administration.

I met with him recently in his office outside Washington and began by asking are we any safer now, nearly two years after 9-11 that we were just before the attack.

Admiral James Loy:
Federal air marshals dramatically more in the air than ever before; going from 4 or 5 percent of checked baggage to a hundred percent of checked baggage; a really fundamentally well-trained and professional, federalized workforce at the airports.

And then you add in hardened cockpit doors, and you add in guns in the cockpit.

You end up with just a dramatically safer and more secure aviation environment.

Ifill:
But it has resulted in a really drastically different flying experience for a lot of people. How do you determine what - week to week when you travel, what's different? Some weeks, I take off my shoes. Some weeks, they stay on.

Loy:
In the wake of the Richard Reed incident, all of a sudden, we did get very focused on shoes and what shoes were al about. And, for example, if intelligence would be continuing to tell us that we should be concerned about that, then we will continue to focus on that particular dynamic of the screening process. You might recall six or eight months ago where heavy coats were taken and - and suggested that they go through the x-ray machine, rather than just be worn through the magnetometer.

Ifill:
Sometimes just suit jackets, too.

Loy:
Sometimes just suit jackets. A- -- and so, w- -- without revealing the nature of - of particulars, it's important for the American public to know that this is a very dynamic thing.

Ifill:
And this isn't just a temporary change anymore. People have to get used to the security being at this level from now on?

Loy:
The post 9-11 environment has brought to America a security environment that we have never experienced before, that we never really thought carefully about before; but that, as far as I can see, is a - is a fundamental change that is with us from now into the foreseeable future. You and I like to get up in the morning and have the freedom to go anywhere in this country that we wanna go - literally, almost, anywhere in the world that we wanna go. That's a freedom that we do not want to jeopardize based on the security paradigm that is now in place in the security environment that we're living with.

Ifill:
Well, you've just hit on the issue. Howe do you balance those freedoms ver- --

Loy:
Yeah, well -

Ifill:
sus the -

Loy:
We…

Ifill:
security we need?

Loy:
we work very hard on that balancing process. It's sort of a teeter-totter, I - I've almost described it. And /EDIT/ so, the three things are what's necessary to be kept in balance - not just security and customer service, but that we minimize the impact negatively on the commerce of our country and the - and the economy that is the foundation for our quality of life.

Ifill:
No-fly lists.

Loy:
Um-hum?

Ifill:
There are lists which are closely held, I gather, of people who are targeted or who are suspicious. If my name, Gwen Ifill, is on a no-fly list and it turns out that some other Gwen Ifill somewhere else in the world has been doing bad things, I'm likely to be yanked out of line, no matter what I've done in my life. Is that - is that correct?

Loy:
Well, if your name is on - ahem - if that n- -- name comparison as you just described it is, in fact, registered on the no-fly list at the moment, that's potentially correct. Now, the real answer to the no-fly list issue is the computer-assisted passenger prescreening system -

Ifill:
That's a new -

Loy:
…known as CAPS II.

Ifill:
…system. That's a new system that's going into effect - when?

Loy:
That's correct. Well, we are - we are in the midst of the design work. It'll be a dramatic increase in the security piece and a dramatic increase in the customer service piece, because the Gwen Ifills of the world who have bad people whose names are like - of like - like theirs won't find themselves in that predicament once we have CAPS II in place.

Ifill:
Finally, I wanna ask you a question that is drawn from a poll that we had taken for this - for this program, in which we asked people about guns in the cockpit, whether they favor that. Overwhelmingly, they do.

Loy:
They do.

Ifill:
Where does that stand?

Loy:
Well, we have had our prototype course of - we s- -- we put 48 beginners and 44 graduates through a - a prototype program down at the F- -- Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glencoe, Georgia. Those 44 have now flown well over 1500 missions with - with no real problems generating from the experience.

These are officers that I personally deputize after they have gone through the curriculum and have also gone through a screening which identifies to my satisfaction that they're the right kind of people to - to put a weapon in their hands with the notion of having a license to - to kill when the circumstances would be appropriate.

Ifill:
So, any pilot who wants to carry a gun can't get into this program, can't do this.

Loy:
First of all, it is a voluntary program. So, of the 75,000 or so pilots that are out there on commercial airliners, only volunteers are going into the program. And then volunteers doesn't make it a mandate. I have infinite respect for the skill set necessary to safely pilot an aircraft from point A to point B. I don't for a moment believe that there is a natural transition, that that same skill set is the competence necessary to make the judgments associated with pulling a weapon and discharging it into a human being.





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