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Airport Officials Work to Implement New Bomb Detection Systems

Last month's thwarted bomb plot on transatlantic flights by British police prompted transportation authorities to issue new security restrictions and pay greater attention to the need for better bomb detection devices.

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  • JEFFREY KAYE, Reporter, KCET:

    The alleged plot to smuggle liquid bomb components onto planes not only led to the banning of most liquids and gels from carry-on luggage, it also laid bare the limitations of explosives detections systems at airports.

    Even though U.S. airport security has been transformed over the past five years, late last year, the 9/11 Commission gave explosives detection at passenger checkpoints a grade of "C."

    That score was too generous, according to Republican Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire. Gregg chairs the subcommittee that oversees the Department of Homeland Security's spending.

    What grade would you give?

    SEN. JUDD GREGG (R), New Hampshire: Well, "D-plus" at best. I mean, the fact is the situation occurring with those aircrafts coming out of England reflected how many different opportunities to use explosive devices there are and how little we really screen for them.


    Among the reasons for the bad grade, serious problems with walk-through machines that analyze chemicals. Government officials promised there'd be 350 so-called "puffers" in operation by the end of this year. But only 94 have been deployed, and further installations have been stopped because of maintenance and reliability issues. That's according to Randy Null, technology chief at the Transportation Security Administration, who would not talk on camera.