Airport security masquerade

Stricter standards: House Republican leaders' plan would leave much of present system intact.

October 23, 2001

DEPENDING ON which path Congress takes, airport security will improve a little or improve a lot.

The Senate already has voted for a lot, in the form of a bill that would create a federal law enforcement unit for the nation's airports. Its 28,000 skilled screeners would be paid more and trained better than the high-turnover, minimum-wage earners who now are the last line of defense against airline terrorism.

This bipartisan measure would root out a system that is nothing more than a security masquerade at the metal detectors.

House Republican leaders, who aren't listening to their rank-and-file, want to keep that masquerade, with a different costume.

A bill introduced by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Don Young would improve airport security only a little.

This bad bill would allow airports to keep private industry workers and would mandate a bit more training, more standards and federal oversight.

Those minor changes would maintain the cheapskate approach to aviation security. Low-bidding companies would continue hiring low-wage employees to screen passengers.

Texas Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison said setting standards for private employees isn't enough.

That's a tried and failed approach, she pointed out.

Mr. Young says his bill would use the European security model. But it would leave intact the security companies that put profits ahead of skill at airports.

The Senate measure is much better. It treats aviation safety like the national security issue it is.

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