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Transportation Security Director Discusses New Rules for Flying

Aired August 22, 2002 - 13:07   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: As promised now, we want to take you out to Seattle, Washington, where the new head of the Transportation Security is now talking about new changes at airport security.
Let's listen


ADMIRAL JAMES LOY, DIRECTOR, TRANSPORTATION SECURITY ADMINISTRATION: ... good old human complacency, Jane, has a way of kicking in once in a while. In this instance, I think it's enormously important for us to go back to the 9/11, "Why," and I think we'll have lots of opportunity to remember that over the course of the anniversary which is coming up quickly on us.

But the notion of these very challenging management, leadership, engineering kinds of issues that we're taking on with the 429 commercial airports around our country are enormously important ones, and it's important that we don't get bound up so much in the difficulties associated with making it all happen that we sort of forget why it is that we're doing what we're doing.

I see intelligence information cross my desk every morning. And I can assure the American public that the president knows exactly what he's saying when he continues to be cautious for all of us as to the nature of the continuing threat and the challenge that each of us have as citizens, as individuals and certainly as leaders of any of these organizations that are trying so hard to do the right thing.

We've had several excellent meetings this morning here in Seattle. The first with Gina Marie Lindsey who is probably one of the most listened to voices, by the way, as an airport director across the country, and you guys are all in good hands here in Seattle in terms of having your issues represented and advocated well.

We also sat with the congressional delegation. Representative Inslee was there with us and a host of staff folks from the rest of the Washington state delegation, and we had a good exchange with them.

And I just spent some time with the airline local managers, and the effort here is to undertake a rebuilding of our relationship set, so to speak, such that all the stakeholders that are so much a part of the solution at the other end of the day are adequately represented at the table, and we are thinking through what will be the solutions for not only Seattle but all the other 428 airports across our country. One thing that I've learned as I've gone around is this notion about, if you've seen one airport, you've seen one airport. The idea that you can build a template that is an instant fix for every airport across the country is just simply erroneous. And I have that reaffirmed again in Seattle as I come through. Enormous challenges associated with the reconfiguration of checkpoints and baggage screening handling stations and however we will venture to get that accomplished at the other end of the day. Lot of focus on deadlines.

I can tell you just some statistics that might be helpful. We are currently about, oh, a little over half the way towards the hiring process for our checkpoint screeners across the country. We have some 14,000-plus that we have hired. Some 8,000 of them are actually already in place in 37 different airports around the country. We'll federalize 25 more airports this week and 27 more airports next week. And by the time the Congress returns, we hopefully will be in over 90 airports around the country on our way to the 11-19 deadline for passenger checkpoint screening.

With respect to the 12-31-02 deadline, several things have sort of come to closure with us over the course of the last several weeks. A combination of time lost, a combination of budgeted capability and some very, very real engineering challenges provoke a conclusion to be reached that the ability for all 429 airports to reach the deadline of 12/31/02 for 100 percent explosive detection at date certain is probably something that we think very carefully about before we continue to press on in a fashion that would have us sort of blindly going there.

LOY: I think it's enormously important for us to remember that our goal at the other end of the day is an adequate security paradigm, and if it takes us an extra 30 or 60 or 90 days in a handful of airports across the country, we should be reflective enough on that to understand the engineering challenges associated with that and the budgetary capability associated with that and the time associated with that to be practical and common sense about our approach to it.

The last thing I wanted to just mention in these opening remarks is the opportunity that I have today to announce a liquid and food handling policy for our federal security directors at our airports and those that are engaged on the line, if you will. The paper or foam polystyrene cups will heretofore be allowed through the mags and the hand-carry of the individual passengers.

Our challenge remains to be thoughtful about ceramic and certainly anything metal or glass or even plastic that will require still to be sealed and properly carried through the x-ray system. But this is sort of an example of the traveling public letting us know that we ought to have a sensible policy about things and finding a way to reach that closure with them. And I'm delighted to make the announcement today that we have, in fact, so reached that kind of a conclusion.

You might imagine in this undertaking that there's probably five or 10 a day different challenges that we attempt to come to a practical and common sense solution consistent with our security goals about -- but in this particular case, we will do it that way. And I would also like to make it quite clear that we will prohibit screeners from asking passengers to drink or taste or consume food stuffs and liquids as a part of any kind of a security enhancement as they go through those lines. And I'm delighted to make sure you guys know that we have a representative from Seattle's Best Coffee with us today that is equally pleased with that particular announcement.

Craig Russell (ph) is with us, and I guess has a comment or two to make as well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.

The National Coffee Association, Seattle's Best Coffee and other such companies are thrilled with the decision to create a policy that allows people to carry their paper or styrofoam cups through security.

WHITFIELD: You have been listening to the new secretary, new head of the Transportation Security Administration make promise to passengers who have been flying since 9/11. He is saying that it is going to be a lot easier now, particularly if you are carrying liquids or food. New policy being put in place: no longer will you have consume your liquids or food at the security check. He says it was time to come up about a more sensible policy that passengers would be able to enjoy.

And in terms of the new security changes that he is putting into place, they are now about the halfway point of doing all their hiring for the security screening. He said so far about 14,000 people have been hired, and they hope to meet their goal, which is September 19.




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