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President Bush Signs Aviation Security Measure Into Law

Aired November 19, 2001 - 10:46   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Live to Reagan National right now. The President has moved into the room with the Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta. Also expect Tom Ridge, the Homeland Security director to be there as well. This will be the official signing into law, that air -- federal aviation measure passed in the House and Senate on Friday of last week. We shall listen live from Washington.


NORMAN MINETA, SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION: -- will sign the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, truly historic legislation. At the Department of Transportation, we are preparing for a swift transition. We recognize the importance of the challenge and the vital importance of this mission.

Since September 11, America has seen extraordinary change, especially in how we travel. But one thing has remained constant: The leadership demonstrated by our president has been steadfast. His service to our country has inspired strength and confidence in all Americans and stands as a beacon of hope to nations around the world.

Mr. President, I am honored to serve in your Cabinet and particularly privileged at this moment. Thank you very, very much for your leadership in protecting our homeland, especially in the challenges that are faced by our transportation systems. And thank you for bringing people and parties together to pass the legislation that you are signing into law today.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, it is my great pleasure and honor to introduce the President of the United States, President George W. Bush.

Mr. President?


Thank you all very much.

Today, we take permanent and aggressive steps to improve the security of our airways. The events of September the 11th were a call to action, and the Congress has now responded.

The law I will sign should give all Americans greater confidence when they fly. All members of Congress care deeply about this issue. Despite divergent views, the Congress worked closely with my administration to develop a bipartisan conclusion that will help protect American air travelers.

I want to thank the House and Senate leadership for their patience in this issue. And I want to thank the speaker and minority leader, the leader of the Senate, Senator Lott, for working hard to make sure this bill came to fruition.

I also want to thank Chairman Don Young and John Mica and Jim Oberstar who've joined us today from the House. I want to thank you for your hard work. And I want thank members of the United States Senate, Chairman Hollings and John McCain and Kay Bailey Hutchison for their hard work.

I appreciate so very much the Secretary of Transportation and his steadiness and his ability to bring confidence to the process. I picked a good man in Norm Mineta who's rising to the occasion. I also want to thank his deputy, Michael Jackson, for his hard work. As well, I appreciate Jane Garvey joining us up here today.

I see other members of Congress who are here. Thank you all for coming. I appreciate you doing the right thing for America.

I also want to thank the pilots and flight attendants and people of the airline industry who joined us today. I want to thank you for your courage in the face of terror. I want thank you for inspiring confidence amongst the American people.

The broad support for this bill shows that our country is united in this crisis. We have our political differences, but we're united to defend our country, and we're united to protect our people. For our airways, there is one supreme priority: security.

Since September the 11th, the federal government has taken action to raise safety standards. We've made funds available to the aviation industry to fortify cockpits; more federal air marshals now ride on our air planes; the Department of Transportation instituted a zero- tolerance crackdown on security breeches; our National Guard protects us in our airports.

And I want to thank the National Guard's men and women, who will be working the holiday season, I want to thank them for being away from their families, thank them for providing more security for people who travel.

I appreciate the work the airlines have done with the Federal Aviation Administration. The airlines have started intense nighttime security sweeps of aircraft. They've tightened background checks for employees and implemented nondiscriminatory government-approved criterion for identifying passengers who require additional security.

Now, we take the next important step. For the first time, airport security will become a direct federal responsibility, overseen by new undersecretary of transportation for security. Additional funds will be provided for federal air marshals, and a new team of federal security managers, supervisors, law enforcement officers and screeners will ensure all passengers and carry-on bags are inspected thoroughly and effectively.

The new security force will be well trained, made up of U.S. citizens. And if any of its members do not perform, the new undersecretary will have full authority to discipline or remove them.

At the same time, we will adopt strict new requirements to screen checked baggage, to tighten security in all other areas of airports and to provide greater security for travelers by bus and by train.

This bill sets a one year deadline for the transition to the new system. It gives my administration the flexibility we need to make that transition work. Ultimately, this bill offers local authorities the option to bring in outside experts, a method that's work well in Israel and Western Europe, provided those outside experts can meet our rigorous new safety standards and requirements.

Security comes first. The federal government will set high standards, and we will enforce them.

These have been difficult days for Americans who fly and for American aviation. A proud industry has been hit hard. But this nation has seen the dedication and spirit of our pilots and flight crews and the hundreds of thousands of hard-working people who keep America flying. We know they will endure. I'm confident this industry will grow and prosper.

The holidays will soon be here. Even after the last few months, we have much to be thankful for: We have a great country. We're a great people. We have our faith, our families and our friends. And thanks to this bill, we have a new commitment to security in the air, and that's good news, as Americans travel to celebrate this season with their loved ones.

It is now my honor to sign this important piece of legislation.

HEMMER: He says it's a call to action to give Americans greater confidence when they fly, and now the sweeping federal aviation measure has been signed into law. Among the provisions, more secured cockpit doors, an increase of air marshals flying on board U.S. airplanes across the country. Screeners. This was the sticky point. Screeners will be federal workers for at least a period of three years. And certainly this agreement comes at a critical time. It's the beginning of the holiday season this week. However, the full implementation of this program to get it up to full speed may take some time.

Couple of provisions involved here. To get them over the final sticking point, as of last Friday, five airports will participate in what's called a "pilot program" in which security is provided by private contracts as it tests the effectiveness of that particular option. Also in three years' time, according to the bill, now law, airports will have the option to decide whether they want to continue federal workers or switch back to private screeners, but certainly it has been a major issue for people all across the country, trying to get them back on the airplanes and trying to make sure they know that, indeed, their safety is secure on board U.S. airlines.

The Senate passed it on Friday in a voice vote. The House followed suit later that day. And after weeks of wrangling and conference committees and behind the scenes conversations, this measure has been approved overwhelmingly, we should add, by the Congress and the president. And the White House saying it is indeed a measure and a bill that they can live with. As the president moves through the crowd there, certainly a scene that many people throughout the avation -- aviation industry wanted to see happen.

You might remember after the events of 9-11, it was this very airport, Reagan National, that stayed closed longer than any other airport in the country. There were concerns about the flight path here heading over Washington, D.C., knowing the Pentagon was hit earlier. A number of targets in the immediate vicinity of that airport. Within three miles as the crow flies, and there was concern that indeed future action may put some of those monuments, including the White House, the Capitol Building, and others, in peril if, indeed, security not watched more closely. However, the measure has been signed into law. And as the president works way through the crowd, we will get a short time out.

One thing keep you posted on right now, we're also watching the Secretary of State Colin Powell from Louisville, Kentucky. He's there on the campus grounds of the University of Louisville. Said to deliver a major policy speech regarding the future of the Middle East. Now how the U.S. would intervene at this time between the Israelis and the Palestinians. We expect that speech in about 10 minutes' time. We'll have it for you live when it happened. But, as we stand right now, the federal aviation measure is now law in the U.S. We'll see where it goes from here, folks.




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