SEPTEMBER 9, 1996
Although the cause of the TWA Flight 800 crash earlier this summer has not been conclusively determined, the event did prompt a new round of questions about overall air safety. President Clinton announced new measures based on the preliminary work of a federally appointed commission. Elizabeth Farnsworth discusses these measures with panel of industry insiders and critics.
Sept. 3, 1996:
Airport security has tightened up quite a bit in the last twenty years, but is it enough? Tom Bearden investigates.
July 25, 1996:
New and more effective technology exists forbetter airport security and airline anti-terrorism. But neither the government nor the private sectorfeels they can afford the expense. A panel of experts discuss who should pay for safer skies.
July 25, 1996:
What equipment is in place to preventexplosives from being smuggled onto airliners? What equipment is available to improve detection?Tom Bearden reports.
July 19, 1996:
Threats To Freedom.
The planting of a terrorist bomb continues to circulate as one of the possible reasons behind the downing of TWA Flight 800. A panel of experts discusses attempts to balance security with personal freedom.
Browse the Online NewsHour's transportation coverage.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Now to a discussion. Elaine Kamarck is senior policy adviser to Vice President Gore. Carol Hallet is president of the Air Transport Association, which represents major national airlines. Larry Johnson worked on transportation counter-terrorism at the State Department from 1989 to 1993. He now runs a security consulting firm in Maryland, and Gregory Nojeim is the legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. Thank you all for being with us. Ms. Kamarck, what can be done right away without congressional approval?
ELAINE KAMARCK, Senior Policy Adviser to Vice President Gore: Well, the organizational changes in the airports which the FAA will stimulate immediately, umm, requiring all parties in the airport to come together to begin to conduct a security assessment of the airport and begin to develop plans jointly for increased security at the airport, they can be done immediately, as can some of the things that the President talked about today. He signed an executive order today putting the National Safety Transportation Board in charge of all response to airline accidents. We have a rule that's been put in the Federal Register on airline manifests, so there's a bunch of things in this packet that can be done right away without waiting for Congress to act.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What about the security measures in the airports, themselves, matching the bags and the people?
MS. KAMARCK: Those are up to the airlines to do. The FAA will order all the airlines to conduct a test using one airport and at least one hub to start fairly quickly, and then eventually we will move to full passenger bag match for domestic flights.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So what will travelers notice in day the next couple of months, probably not much?
MS. KAMARCK: Yeah. That's a little hard to say. It kind of depends on how good the airlines are at integrating these new security procedures into their ongoing procedures. One of the reasons that we are encouraging the partnership concept among all the actors at the airport is that we want these things to be done with maximum creativity and with the least disruption to the business of the airlines and to air passenger travel.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And as Tom Bearden said in the report, the screening of cargo and mail has been something of a hole in the system. Does this deal with that?
MS. KAMARCK: Yes.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Do the proposals?
MS. KAMARCK: Yes. We have two provisions that deal with that. One is, umm, among the machines slated to be bought are cargo X-ray machines, new cargo X-ray machines. Also, we have put more money in this proposal for U.S. Customs to look at things that are leaving the country and that may be leaving on passenger airlines.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: I thought there were not yet cargo X-ray machines big enough to do the work.
MS. KAMARCK: There are.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: There are.
MS. KAMARCK: There are.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And one last clarifying question, how will the cost be divided up? Is that--has that been clarified, between taxpayers and airlines?
MS. KAMARCK: It's not exact, but there's a new provision in this. In previous presidential recommendations, they have asked the industry to bear the full cost. We are not doing that. We are recognizing that to a certain extend this is a national security question and the United States Government bears some of the responsibility of protecting airports, airlines, et cetera. So what we've done here is if you look through the 20 recommendations, many of those the United States Government is footing the whole bill for. Others we are footing a portion of the bill, and others the airlines will have to foot the bill for. We think this is in the spirit of creating a new security partnership.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Ms. Hallet, as a representative of the airlines, what do you think? What's your overall assessment so far of this?
CAROL HALLETT, Air Transport Association: Well, first of all, we were very pleased because we presented a 12-point plan to the Gore Commission about a month ago, and 11 of those 12 plans have been included in this proposal. And so that's very important: Proposals such as certifying the FAA, certifying all of the screeners, who work in the airports, another good example is that we had called for the canine bomb detection teams, more testing. We also indicated that we were very willing to test all of the bomb equipment that will, in fact, be put online and purchased by the federal government. Profiling is another key part of our proposal, and so we're very pleased with those aspects of it. There's some that will be difficult and very costly, and we want to work with the commission to try and find the best way to do it. That includes, of course, the issue of 100 percent bag match for all passengers.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Why is that difficult and costly??
MS. HALLETT: Well, first of all, we have today a positive bag match with all of the passengers who are coming into the country, but that's about 70 to 80 million passengers a year. There are 500 million passengers in the United States, and that means for short flights, for any length of flight in the United States, particularly utilizing hubs, this is--the FAA estimated that it costs $2.26 billion a year to do this. That is a cost that will be imposed on the industry. They indicated over a 15-year period that would cost about $50 billion. That is an enormous amount of money that has to come from somewhere, and that means it comes from the passengers. It is also going to be a slow and cumbersome process when you have passengers on a flight with a short amount of time between connections. It is not going to be easy. We're trying to figure out a way that we can make it work without having to eliminate flights in order to get those bags from point A to point B.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. Just on this question, Ms. Kamarck, how do you understand the bag match-up and how it will be implemented and who will pay for it?
MS. KAMARCK: We do understand that it is not an easy thing to do. We are trying to make sure that we work with the airlines so that we can let them be as creative and innovative as possible. Umm, I think that these figures are probably a little bit exaggerated because one of the things that we find, whether it's this type of regulation or other kinds of regulations, is that when an industry knows they have to do something, their innovative natures come out, and they figure out how to integrate the new requirement into their ongoing procedures. So we're hoping that this will not turn out to be very expensive over the long haul, and we're also hoping that the airlines working with us can figure out the most appropriate way to do it.
MS. HALLETT: We hope so because it was the FAA that came up with those figures, and we would very much like for them to be wrong because that's a huge price tag.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. One minute, Mr. Johnson. I have one more question. Who's in charge of all of this? This is still an enormous undertaking.
MS. HALLETT: Yes.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And many, many aspects to it. Who do you understand is in charge?
MS. HALLETT: Well, the FAA will oversee this. They--in fact, the federal government is responsible for all security. We simply carry it out. We will carry it out under the direction of the FAA and in a working partnership with many others at the airports, in the federal government, and this is one of the key things that has been proposed is working in partnership, and, you know, just in any partnership, you don't necessarily agree on everything, but you try to find a way to make it work.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. Larry Johnson, what do you think of this?
LARRY JOHNSON, Security Expert: I think the overall proposals are sound but I think we're dealing with a real myth here about previous confrontation and new partnership. The fact is you're going to have confrontation between the government and the airlines in the same way that if you have a Democratic White House and a Democratic Congress, you're still going to have conflict, because they are two separate institutions with different institutional objectives. Airlines are in the business to make money. They haven't been sitting there, conniving behind the scenes, saying we want to make dangerous planes, or we want to make them vulnerable to terrorists. But the fact is a lot of things that are contained in this report as recommendations have been pushed by the FAA for a long time. It's clear that TWA 800, the belief at least that it probably was a bomb, inspired this commission, brought into play the Presidential clout that has pushed to the fore some of these things that needed to be done. Just as an example, in ‘93, the standard was set for explosive detection. It wasn't until in 1994 the CTX-5000 met that standard. It's still--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: The CTX-5000, is that the machine that you saw--
MR. JOHNSON: The machine that was previewed.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Yes.
MR. JOHNSON: It's now 1996, and they're still going through the testing. Part of that is because of the Aviation Security Improvement Act which mandated the field testing. Now, these proposals are good because they call for purchasing that equipment, but they also call for purchasing some equipment that doesn't meet the standard for detecting explosives in checked baggage. Now, if you don't meet that standard, just because other countries use it, the fact of the matter is the standard for detecting explosives is critical because it is designed to beat the amount that will bring down a plane. That was done through studies out at Sandia. I think what needs to be done and the heart of it is here, is going one step further, and since this is the preliminary report, I give the benefit of the doubt--the final step is who's going to be in charge because unless you really put the federal government in charge of security and take the FAA's commercial responsibilities and separate commercial and security responsibilities to two sides and let security do its work, then there will in some instances be partnership. There will in some instances be conflict. I mean, I have a lot of respect for Carol on this but when she commented that the background checks--I mean, the fact is the ATA was on record last year pushing to stop the background checks. Now I'm glad that they've come around on this. This is good, but--
MS. HALLETT: No, I don't say anything about background checks. We need to talk about it.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Your major criticism, is this right, is that it's still not clear who will be in charge--
MR. JOHNSON: That's right.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: --of making sure that this is implemented? Do you also think it is unclear who will pay for it, or do you think that's cleared up somewhat?
MR. JOHNSON: It's not clear who's going to pay for it, but I think it is a natural and it's unfortunate that this is an election year because the reality is the federal government needs to pay for it, Republicans and Democrats need to stop worry about taxes, and on this issue say the federal government has a right to protect the airline industry.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Well, of the billion dollars about four hundred and thirty-nine million is for airport security.
MR. JOHNSON: That's right.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So clearly the government is going to pay for it. Okay. Just on the issue of control, quickly, what about the points that Mr. Johnson made?
MS. HALLETT: Well, first of all, I don't think this is preliminary. The President said today this will be done. That's not very preliminary, but also in talking about the overall issue of the fingerprinting and the criminal history background check, a very serious problem, a dilemma that we're faced with, it takes at least 60 days to get that information back. Right now, we could easily have a hundred thousand positions vacant while we're waiting for that information and that's why we need access immediately to the National Crime Information Center information so that if we hire someone, we could at least put them on temporarily awaiting that kind of information. We have been denied that information even though the insurance industry received it today. Those are the kinds of things that we need to work out with the commission so that we can effectively carry out these very expensive proposals that our passengers will be paying for.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Ms. Kamarck, is that what's happening essentially, that in the months that come, you will be trying to work that out?
MS. KAMARCK: Yes, we will be trying to work it out. The FAA will be trying to work it out. You know, one of the things that--one of the reasons this came to the Vice President is that in the three years we've been spending reinventing government, what we've sort of grappled with were a series of problems exactly like this, a very large bureaucracy with its way of doing things, a very big sector of the private sector that is very important and we certainly don't want to hurt the private sector, and we've looked for ways that, in fact, are kind of new ways of doing business. Probably our most hopeful story concerns airlines with customs in Miami, where, in fact, they had a terribly adversarial relationship until a year ago when we designated them a reinvention laboratory, and the airlines entered into brand new and different kinds of relationships with customs, and just last May, the Vice President went down to Miami to celebrate the fact that not only were passengers moving through that airport more quickly than they'd ever moved through that airport before, but we were catching more drugs. It's things like that that give us hope that with the true spirit of partnership and some creative re-engineering and applying some new technologies and some new money, we can, in fact, break through the logjams that have presented us from having increased security in the past.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Nojeim, let me just go into this now. There are some civil liberties implications here. What are they from your point of view?
GREGORY NOJEIM, ACLU: Well, first let me say that the proposals that were put on the table, most of them did not raise civil liberties problems and don't oppose most of what the commission recommended. What we do have a problem with is the profile idea.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Explain what the profiling is.
MR. NOJEIM: Well, a profile is essentially a stereotype. The idea is that you can predict a person's behavior based on what another person has done who shares the characteristics. The most offensive profiles, the ones most offensive to the Constitution, are the ones that are based on race, religion, national origin, political opinion, gender, or sexual orientation. These are things that a person can't change or that the government ought not to require them to change.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And are you afraid, or do you know that there is profiling going on right now? Do you know that it does use those categories in ways that would be inimical to the Constitution?
MR. NOJEIM: Well, for example, El Al Airlines uses profiling right now. It's been held up as a model. Well, one of the criteria that El Al employs is young, dark-skinned male. That person gets extra scrutiny. Another criterion is single woman traveling alone, that person gets extra scrutiny. Well, these kinds of characteristics, race and gender, these are protected by the Constitution. A person can't change them, and they ought not to be made to pay a price in terms of not just of convenience but in terms of a very intrusive search. I mean, for example, the fellow who left Oklahoma City, the Arab-American, on the wrong day at the wrong time was stopped, questioned in three cities, sometimes hostilely, and made to undergo a body search, a strip search. People ought not to have to go through that just because they fit a profile.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Ms. Hallet, what are the airlines doing right now in regard to profiling? How does it work?
MS. HALLETT: Well, first of all airlines have been doing profiling for 23 years to stop hijacking, and we essentially have stopped hijacking in America. But--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: You were looking at a certain category of person who might be likely to hijack?
MS. HALLETT: That is correct, but much more important and just a comment about Mrs. Kamarck's statement about Miami, I was the commissioner of customs for four years. And we, in fact, were doing all of these things in conjunction with the airlines. It worked very well. We had an excellent relationship with both the trade community as well as passengers in Miami, and we were utilizing and working very closely with the airlines with profiling. Profiling is done on every single passenger coming in on U.S. planes to the United States, and has been for man years.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: You mean, all airlines abroad are profiling?
MS. HALLETT: All U.S. airlines and a number of the foreign airlines as well. For instance, Air New Zealand, as well as the Australian airlines.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Who sets the categories? How is that done?
MS. HALLETT: It has been set up by the Customs Service, and the most important part of this is that the names go onto a manifest. The passport is run through a machine reader. That information goes on to the manifest. When the plane lifts off, the manifest automatically goes to immigration. It is then fed into the Treasury Enforcement Information Center, and they match those names up to see if any of those people have a criminal record or arrests that would cause the Customs Service to want to further interview those people. And the benefit is that it allows those people who do not have a problem to freely move through Customs and pick up their bags and leave. And that is one of the benefits of profiling. It is not intrusive; however, it is designed in that case to stop drug traffickers. Our plan today, we want to stop terrorists, and terrorists who would bomb a plane, from getting onto that plane, and it's very important that that happen.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Ms. Kamarck, just clarify for us, what is in this about profiling?
MS. KAMARCK: We have--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: In the plans announced today.
MS. KAMARCK: We call for closer cooperation between the intelligence community, the FBI, FAA, in developing better profiles, as Carol said. We use profiles extensively in Customs. We need to develop a better profiling system for terrorist activity. Secondly, there's some money also to help this development. Finally, we do, in f act, call for the creation of an advisory board to work with the commission to deal with the civil liberties issues that Mr. Nojeim spoke about because they are important and we don't believe at this point that anyone, that we are even close to those kinds of issues in the profiling we're currently doing, we don't want to, uh, run afoul of the Constitution, obviously, but we do want to develop a way to use profiling effectively. Now, the important thing about it is that you have to look at all these systems as a whole. There's no one machine that can do it. Okay? There's no one system that can do it. You have to use a--
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: You mean not profiling, not only profiling, not only the bomb machines, not only the dogs?
MS. KAMARCK: That's right. Profiling allows you to use your machines more effectively. Okay? The dogs, the machines, the profiling, the cooperative arrangements at the airports that maybe deal with things as simple as perimeters, all of those things are--need to be seen as a system of security as opposed to just a one-shot deal.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Nojeim, and then Larry Johnson.
MR. NOJEIM: Profiling didn't work, doesn't work, and it won't work.
MS. HALLETT: Oh, I disagree.
MR. NOJEIM: It didn't work. First of all it doesn't work to stop drugs at the border. If it did work to stop drugs at the border, drugs wouldn't be coming in--
MS. HALLETT: It's not used at the border.
MS. KAMARCK: That's not the potential--
MR. NOJEIM: --over the border. Secondly--
MS. HALLETT: It's used at airports.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Let Mr. Nojeim finish. I'll come back to you.
MR. NOJEIM: We did have a profiling system in place to stop hijacking, and what we did was we said if a person meets the profile, that person will go through the X-ray machine. We abandoned that system. Now everybody goes through the X-ray machine because it wasn't working. And thirdly, in the case of bombings, it's even less likely to work because it's so easy for the terrorist who fits the profile to hire someone who doesn't to plant the bomb. This is a quick fix that's not going to fix anything.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. On this, quickly, Mr. Johnson.
MR. JOHNSON: That's exactly right. Profiling is helping the technology--you've got to--you've got a choice between behavior and technology. Profiling, like positive passenger bag match, is a behavioral approach. It makes assumptions about how people will behave. Once you come up with a technology that works, you don't have to worry about the behavioral model. In this case, because the detection systems don't meet the through-put, they're going to use profiling and positive passenger bag match as supplements, but at some point you're going to get the technology that can eliminate the need for those behavioral because I, I think he's correct.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Do you agree, though, that there are potential--that it potentially violates civil liberties?
MR. JOHNSON: I have some civil liberties concerns. I share those. And in fact, you know, the reality is we've had two--if you count TWA 800 as a terrorist bombing, which that judgment is not out yet--in the last eight years, we've had two terrorist bombs--TWA 800, Pan Am 103. Now that's--I don't think you should draw an entire security system around two isolated incidents. I do agree the approach--you have to have a systematic, systemic approach, but at the same time recognize profiling has some limits. It assumes that someone who's well dressed, who's Caucasian, is not going to put a bomb on board the plane that has frequent flier miles, and that's usually true, but you wouldn't make that much money at a horse track betting that way.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. Well, thank you very much for being with us.