PART FOUR: SOLUTIONS
The question remains: Can we ever be safe?
From Mike Fish
ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Are there any measures that will make us truly secure?
We would all sleep better, surely, knowing the gaps in the air-security system had been totally plugged. But the reality is, experts agree, there are no guarantees. No amount of government spending or subcommittee hearings can eradicate the threat of terrorist attack.
"Everything has changed," said Rudy Kapustin, former chief investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board. "Over the years cabin crews have been trained for a hijacking, as we knew it. It was some guy wanting to go some place: 'You do what they want you to do, go where they want to go.' That mentality is gone.
"These guys don't want to go any place or do anything, except kill Americans."
The game and stakes have changed, but so too has the vigilance needed to prevent another event like what transpired September 11 -- or so political leaders and airline officials say.
More federal marshals are now on airplanes. The National Guard is a presence at airports. Security screening has tightened, as Congress debates how to revamp the system while attracting a higher-quality, better-trained work force.
Industry experts applaud the vigilance paid to random searching of baggage and physical searches of passengers, although they wonder how long the extra measures will last.
Some remain unconvinced the flying public is significantly safer. Some wonder if we're seeing better security or simply more inconvenient security. Others say posting troops at airports is only window-dressing.
"We have not done any appreciable thing yet that would prevent another September 11 tragedy," said former FAA security chief Billie Vincent, president of Aerospace Services International. "Should we feel more comfortable? No.
"Bill Clinton is making his public pronouncement of having traveled three times here recently on commercial airplane and feeling safe and so on. What he neglected to mention to the American public is that he had a Secret Service detail with him."
Vincent hopes that because the system has been so tragically exposed that the public won't stand for it any longer. Government agencies and watchdog groups railed for years against lax security, some even documenting the breaches in detailed reports to Congress
The difference, today, the experts say, is that security has reached top priority status as airlines bid to regain the public confidence -- and stay financially solvent.
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