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Mineta: U.S. passes holiday transportation test

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The aviation industry faced its "first big test" since the horrific September 11 terror attacks, the nation's transportation chief said Tuesday, sailing through the long holiday weekend with few bumps in the road.

Norman Mineta, President Bush's Secretary of Transportation, said the country's transportation system has risen to the challenges brought about by the terror attacks.

"More Americans traveled over the Thanksgiving holiday than at anytime since the hijackings and terrorist attacks," he said. "And thanks to the work of all transportation workers, and law enforcement personnel around our country, they did safely and without incident."

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Speaking at Aviation Week magazine's Homeland Security and Defense Conference, Mineta praised his boss's handling of the national crisis.

"All of us here understand that we have entered a new era ... where an enemy has challenged one of our most cherished freedoms, the freedom of mobility," he said. "Under the leadership of President Bush, we have risen to meet this challenge."

Mineta said his agency was hard at work to implement the aviation security bill recently passed by Congress, including the federalizing of airport screeners.

"We are tasked with building and staffing a new law enforcement agency, larger than the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency and the border patrol combined, and get it done in 365 days," he said. "I pledge to you today that the U.S. Department of Transportation will measure up to the job." Mineta also called for understanding from the American public as the entire federal government shifts to deal with the changes brought about by the terror attacks.

"Patience is a new form of patriotism," he said.


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