Changing of the guard

Airport security: United States should take this important responsibility out of private hands.

September 25, 2001

TRANSPORTATION Secretary Norman Mineta should get over his reluctance to support a federal takeover of airport security.

Mr. Mineta voiced concern that hiring federal officers to secure airport checkpoints would cost taxpayers at least $1.8 billion a year.

After Sept. 11, who'll say the price is too high?

Recent increases in security - banning curbside baggage checks, prohibiting all knives, allowing only ticketed passengers through gates and adding U.S. marshals - were only a start.

The terrorist attacks have made all of us appreciate the need to protect airplane cockpits. That would require impenetrable cockpit doors that only pilots can open. The attacks also raised awareness that airport security workers must become better-trained, better-paid professionals.

Airlines have done a lousy job with airport security, usually contracting with outfits that give them cheap rates and minimum-wage employees. Using cost as an excuse not to federalize airport security would repeat the same mistake.

Bipartisan legislation is being introduced in Congress this week to put federal officers in charge of airport screenings. It should be done - no matter the price.

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