Wednesday, November 14, 2001

Hamrick misses point: Security is a federal duty

Mr. Hamrick, I think you are missing the point on the issue of the difference between federal and private employees performing airline security screening ["Thanks, Congress, for return to norm," The Citizen, Nov. 7]. It is not a question of where the paychecks come from. The real issue is law enforcement and how we as an industry and a nation respond to terrorism.

Let us not ever forget that the perpetrators who brought down the Twin Towers and murdered over 5,000 people were cleared by a non-law enforcement, non-federal group. Let me share with you some of my reasons for elevating this first-line of defense to a federal level of law enforcement:

The elevation of the system to federal status is but one part to make improvements. As has been pointed out, the current system has its flaws, even if the employees are federalized. The screening process only checks what is physically susceptible to electronic detection. It does nothing for and is totally ignorant of any FBI or other law enforcement watch lists.

Federalizing the system should also include what is presently in place at all airports for arriving international flights. A system which scans passports for the INS currently exists. We need to install the same apparatus at airports for all departing flights as well, and make enhancements to include multiple federal and local agency databases into one system, and the result would be a better way of predetermining who the bad guys are, and profiling those who need serious questioning and search.

Any lesser system will always provide an opportunity for those intent on doing harm. Of course, we would all be required to carry smart-card passports for all domestic, as well as international, travel, but that is a small price to pay for the best system available.

We had four airliners turned into weapons as a result of our failures to properly screen those who boarded. The business of protecting our nation from harm is the business of the federal government and the Department of Defense. The business of domestic and international criminal policing is the business of the FBI and the CIA. The business of protecting our shores, who is allowed into the country, and what can be brought in are all the responsibility of the INS, Customs, and the Coast Guard all federal agencies.

Protecting us from harm aboard certified U.S. carriers is now part of our national defense.

Juan Matute

Peachtree City

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