9/11: The FAA Should Have Known

The information coming out of the 9/11 hearings — about the failures of our intelligence community to provide national leaders and the public with information sufficient to warn the nation — is disheartening. In order to prepare for the foreseeable risks of terrorism, as with crime in all of its forms, you must know your enemies, understand their intent, and evaluate the security in place to protect against the threats presented against you. We have learned that we as a nation did not really know our enemies, but rather knew of them. We had information about tactics that might be employed by them, but we didn’t acknowledge the need to prepare for such tactics; and we knew that our security, particularly aviation security, was in place, but we did not ensure that it was prepared for the challenges that were to be faced.

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The Impact Of Violence On Public Education

In America’s major cities, public school buildings are regularly protected by detachments of school “police.” In New York City, the school security personnel are in fact employed and trained by the New York City Police Department’s School Safety Division under the command of an Assistant Chief Inspector. In Brooklyn, the District Attorney has set aside scarce resources to establish the School Advocacy Bureau, which is dedicated to dealing with the issue of school crime, and finding ways to work with the New York City Department of Education to combat school violence.

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Another Blow for Aviation Security

On February 25th of this year, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey requested that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) designate John F. Kennedy International Airport as a pilot project under Section 108 of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (the section of the law signed by President Bush on November 19th of last year). The new law was passed primarily to replace the private-sector security work force employed by the airlines, whose history of failures reached its low point on September 11th, when 19 terrorists hijacked four airliners from two airports within an hour or so of each other. The pilot project requested for JFK — with the support of most of New York’s Congressional representatives and of both Senators — was rejected on June 19th by the TSA in favor of an award to the San Francisco International Airport, under circumstances that are, at best, shocking.

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A Call For Action

After delivering a paper on security at domestic airports to the President’s Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism in 1990, I was informally told that, absent a terrorist act against domestic aviation in the United States, an overhaul of our airport security system was not likely. Since that time, and notwithstanding the Gore Commission inquiry after TWA 800, further recommendations to improve airport security have been made and new protocols established. The Pan Am and TWA disasters resulted in the loss of over 500 lives, a number at one time thought to be horrific. With the loss of human life now in the thousands as a result of air terrorism over New York City, Washington, D.C., and outside of Pittsburgh, the time is ripe to ask if we are now ready to secure our domestic aviation facilities.

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