Homeland Secretary Chertoff Tours Security at L.A. Airport

LOS ANGELES (AP) - In his first California visit since taking office, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff got a firsthand look Thursday at technology to screen airline luggage and passengers for bombs at Los Angeles International Airport.

Calling the airport a "symbol to the enemy," Chertoff applauded measures already taken to protect it but said there is still more to do.

That includes beefing up security of airport infrastructure, using more detection systems to spot microscopic amounts of explosives on passengers, and expanding a program in which frequent fliers submit biometrics data likes fingerprints in advance so they can move quickly through inspections.

"Obviously we can continue to refine, not only to make it safer but to make it easier and more convenient," said Chertoff, standing with Reps. Jane Harman, D-Venice, and Maxine Waters, D-Los Angeles, at an airport parking structure. "The ultimate goal here is a seamless security system which moves very quickly."

Saying his visit was designed to see the airport up close, Chertoff did not announce any new measures or funding.

Earlier, he reviewed one of dozens of bomb detection systems used on luggage over the last 2˝ years, as well as the airport's first device to identify traces of explosive on passengers, which was installed last month.

Chertoff, who became Homeland Security chief in February, said he understood the frustration felt by some over illegal immigration. He added that securing the borders should fall to the federal government, not groups like the Minuteman Project.

"We hear your message," he said. "But again I have to caution: People should not to try to take the law into their own hands."

He noted terrorists have targeted the airport in the past, including a plot to blow it up on the eve of the millennium. A 37-year-old man caught in December 1999 trying to enter the United States with a trunkload of explosives is scheduled to be sentenced next month.

Still, Chertoff tried to quell the fears of airport travelers in Los Angeles.

"I think passengers should be very comfortable," he said.