Determination Continues in Fight for Reform of Aviation Security

Last December Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) introduced legislation to eliminate loopholes in aviation security, but the legislation went nowhere, although it did influence the Fiscal 2005 spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security. Specifically, DHS was told to triple the number of air cargo inspections. However, more needs to be done, and Markey plans to continue his campaign for improved air security:

"Three and a half years after the devastating September 11 attacks, glaring security gaps continue to put Americans at risk of another terrorist attack that used airplanes to inflict serious damage on our country. Last year, I introduced H.R. 3798, the Secure Existing Aviation Loopholes (SEAL) Act, to strengthen our ability to prevent terrorists from using aircraft to carry out their deadly plans. I plan to re-introduce legislation soon to close dangerous security loopholes that continue to put passengers and flight crews at risk, such as the cargo loophole that results in almost none of the cargo on passenger planes being physically inspected before it is loaded on board. We know that Al Qaeda continues to put aviation at the top of its terrorist target list, and we must do more to make our skies safer from terrorist attack."

From the defunct SEAL Act, it might be possible to assess what SEAL-2 might address. Herewith, relevant sections of the original act:

* Air cargo on passenger aircraft: The system shall use equipment, technology and personnel to screen and inspect cargo that meet the same standards as those to screen passenger baggage. Establish and impose fees (to be known as 'cargo security fees') for shippers of cargo to pay the costs associated with this.

* Federal air marshals: Expand the program to include charter flights. For foreign carriers, include a Federal Air Marshal or "an equivalent officer of the government of the foreign country" on board.

* Improved communications systems: Provide flight attendants with a system for "discreet, secure, hands-free, wireless method of communication" with the pilots.

* Flight attendant training: Require both classroom and effective hands- on situational training for flight attendants in self-defense.

* Comprehensive preflight screening: Within 180 days, issue regulations to improve preflight screening of passenger aircraft for dangerous objects and training of screeners of passenger aircraft. Elsewhere in the Act, flight attendants are to be trained in the proper conduct of a cabin search.

* Airport perimeter: Within six months, issue federal regulations to improve control over access to the secured area of each airport.

* Background checks for all airport workers: All employees to be subject to a Social Security check and a check against all terrorist watch lists.

* Screening of airport workers: Require such screening, to include individuals for metallic objects and inspecting their personal bags for chemical, biological or nuclear materials.

* Cockpit doors: For cargo aircraft, install a locked door within a year. For passenger and cargo aircraft, in addition to the locked door, "ensure that the wall surrounding the flight deck door ... is sufficient to secure the cockpit."

The Act provides for grants to help the airlines defray any expenses in meeting the above.