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White House: airport security report shows need

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A report that airport security screeners missed hundreds of knives and other weapons in tests after the September 11 attacks demonstrates the need for the government to take over security, the White House said Monday.

USA Today reported Monday that in undercover tests conducted by the Department of Transportation at 32 U.S. airports between November and February, screeners missed 70 percent of knives, 60 percent of simulated explosives and 30 percent of guns investigators tried to smuggle past checkpoints.

White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer told reporters Monday that the tests were conducted, at the Bush administration's request, before the federal government took over airport security February 17.

"This was done in order to provide the Department of Transportation with a realistic assessment of the needs that we have at the airports," Fleischer said.

Under the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, which passed in November, the government has until November 19 to have federal screeners in place at all 429 commercial airports in the United States.

Fleischer said the first wave of senior federal security screeners will be in place this week, and 1,200 will be trained over the next four weeks.

"I think it's fair to say that as a result of the legislation enacted by the Congress last year and its implementation throughout the course of this year, security gets better at the airports every day," Fleischer said.

He said airport security will continue to be a priority for the administration.

"The president will continue to be very bottom line, results oriented, seeking the Department of Transportation to test their systems, to make sure they're as reliable as they can be, as we continue to make every effort throughout the year to beef up security," Fleischer said.




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