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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

America's New War: President Bush Proposes Airline and Airport Security Measures

Aired September 27, 2001 - 17:40   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: President Bush has announced plans to step up airport security, and at our Web site, cnn.com/community, we've been getting questions from our viewers about the latest (UNINTELLIGIBLE) from the Bush administration. You see our Web chat there, cnn.com/community, /community. This is a live chat under way right now.

Got questions for CNN senior White House correspondent John King to talk about some of the issues surrounding the Bush plan.

John, thanks for being with us and taking questions from our audience. Let's get one of those to you right away. Can we bring up this question?

Well, John, we're having a little trouble. There we go. This is C.J. Brown's question, John: "Why would our president not want total U.S. federal control over U.S. airport security?"

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Joie, C.J.'s question is an excellent one, because this is where the debate will be in the Congress. This has been a period of great bipartisan unity, but many in Congress, especially the Democrats, believe there should be a total federal takeover of airport security. Mr. Bush says no, that he wants federal oversight and federal standards, federal testing, and at least some federal presence at those sites. But he believes this is a state authority, a state responsibility, or an airport authority responsibility. So he wants strict federal oversight and standards, but not total federal responsibility.

Look for that to be the key debating point when this debate moves next week to the Congress.

CHEN: All right, John, another question from our Web chat audience now. Let's bring that one up.

Elizabeth Niles asks: "What do the flight attendants have to say about the airline-airport security issue?"

KING: Well, through their unions, both the flight attendants and the pilots and others who work on airplanes and at airports have had some recommendations. We heard one controversial one from the pilots union. They wanted the pilots to be able to carry handguns. We know the president opposes that. The airline unions have asked for more authority for flight attendants in the past, to be more, to have -- to impose more discipline on passengers, if you will.

Very little in this current debate directly from the flight attendants. There was some talk that they be able to carry cans of mace or some sort of repellent. Nothing like that in the president's proposal. Perhaps some discussion of that when that moves to Congress.

But that is not, in the administration's view and in the Transportation Department view, that is not the answer, to empower the flight attendants or the pilots to take matters into their own hands.

They think the key thing here, keep the weapons off the planes, and then if there -- if a weapon does get on a plane, fortify those cockpits so they can't get to the pilots.

CHEN: All right, John, another question from the Web chat audience now. This is, this one from Susie South. "Which of the president's proposals is likely to cause the most controversy?"

Certainly in the short term, the president's proposal that the federal government not take over, as we were just discussing, not take over complete control of that security checkpoint, the first person you see when you're going through, putting your carry-on bag through, going through the metal detector. Many in Congress think that should be a complete federal responsibility and they will debate that point when the president's proposal makes it up there next week.

There might also be some debate over the short-term presence of the National Guard at airports. Mr. Bush said today the federal government will pay for that. He believes a uniformed military presence at airports in the short term would give consumers a better sense of security.

Some wonder, though, if passengers walking through and seeing essentially the military at the airport might actually cause them as much alarm as it does a sense of calm.

CHEN: John, this question is from Michael Roberts. "Why didn't Mr. Bush use his executive authority to announce these intentions two weeks ago?"

KING: Well, actually, Michael, there have been some steps taken by executive authority, by the Federal Aviation Administration already. Already, they have gone back, we are told, and imposed more discipline on the background check process for people who have access to planes and baggage holds and cargo areas. They have told airports to have more strict security checkpoints when you go through that metal detector, to start randomly testing more bags.

So some things have been done by administrative action. Mr. Bush doing more today by administrative action. But a lot of this, because of the sensitivity of the issue, the civil liberties issues involved, law enforcement issues involved, some of it does have to go through the United States Congress.

CHEN: Our CNN senior White House correspondent, John King, at the White House this afternoon answering question from our Web chat audience.

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