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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Tom Ridge Addresses Group in Washington on Aviation Security

Aired November 27, 2001 - 11:06   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.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: In aviation, news to talk about. Jeanne Meserve watching this front, in Washington, with the Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta talked about this screening of checked baggage and not being able to make an imposed deadline.

Jeanne, what's happening.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bill, You will recall that the aviation security bill which was just signed into law by President Bush mandated within 60 days all checked baggage be checked for explosives. But this morning, Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta said he would be going back to Congress and seeking an extension of that deadline, because, he said, a shortage of screening machines make it impossible for his department to meet the 60-day deadline.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NORM MINETA, U.S. TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: Essentially right now, two companies that are certified in terms of bomb detection for explosive detection, EDS, one has a capability of about -- if they ramp up, in the next couple of months, getting to nine machines a month, maybe by the end of next year, maybe 20 next months. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out you're going to not get from here to there given that kind of production scheme.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MESERVE: Off camera, Mineta told reporters that unless the deadline is extended, passengers, airline passengers, will face what he calls critical delays. The only alternative to those screening machines are a hand check of the baggage. There are, of course, bomb- sniffing dogs, but Mineta mentioned, they need a break every 30 minutes. And so it looks like he will be going back to Congress. No response yet from Capitol Hill -- Bill.

HEMMER: Jeanne, quickly, is there an indication that the legislation was too tough, too soon, asking for too much.

MESERVE: Well, clearly, in his remarks this morning, Secretary Mineta seemed to signal that. There simply isn't the capability to produce the number of machines that are needed to screen the number of bags that are checked everyday.

Now on another matter, he did mention that within 365 days, his department has to create a brand new security force to cover transportation security overall. He insisted that his department will be able to do that, that they are starting that process already, and that they will meet those deadlines, as mandated by law -- Bill.

HEMMER: Jeanne, another issue to watch. Jeanne Meserve with an update in Washington, thanks.

Also in Washington, Tom Ridge now speaking on indeed the same topic: airline security. Let's pick up his comments now live.

TOM RIDGE, HOMELAND SECURITY DIRECTOR: Those of you, both in this room and participating via the global Web-cast, must surely help us drive that innovation.

The principle challenge for homeland security is, in fact, to focus, to focus all of our resources, all the resources at our disposal, federal, state, local and private, to safeguard our country from those who try to do us harm.

Unfortunately, nothing compels us to focus quite as well as a tragedy, and the events of September 11 created a shared sense of urgency and a commonsense of purpose. That sense of purpose has fueled a national response that, I believe, has been immediate and comprehensive: recovery efforts in New York City and the Pentagon; handling the anthrax challenge with identification, treatment, decontamination and investigation; addressing urgent economic needs for the airlines and insurance companies; restoring affected commercial services, again, the airline industry and our mail; restoring public confidence, while instilling vigilance.

In the weeks since September 11, we've largely concentrated on response and recovery from the terrorist attacks on our country. Federal agencies have mobilized to protect our critical infrastructure. The FAA took immediate steps to secure our airports, enacting tough flight restrictions and improved aviation security has clearly become a national priority.

The FBI has stepped up its counterterrorist efforts with watch list and threat credibility assessments.

FEMA is managing -- that's the Federal Emergency Management Agency -- is manning a 24-hour operation center staffing health service support teams and working with states to improve their emergency preparedness and response plans.

The FBI has taken on a new mission with the intelligence community: prevention of terrorist attacks.

The Department of Energy is overseeing the joint coordination on nuclear material control and security enhancements.

The Environmental Protection Agency has significantly increased its efforts to protect our water supply.

As I'm sure Secretary Mineta pointed out today, the Coast Guard is now patrolling our nation's harbors, many of which contain the approximation of nuclear power plants and other critical infrastructures.

In addition to pursuing our nation's military objectives overseas... HEMMER: Tom Ridge, the director of homeland security, addressing a group of folks there in Washington on aviation security. And a number of different issues, clearly running through the laundry list of things that have been done so far since the attacks of 9-11 from a variety of perspectives, and clearly, that man has his plate full once again today.

Tom Ridge in Washington.

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