Airport-security procedures, with their intrusive pat-downs and body scans, don't need to be toughened, congressional and security officials said, despite the foiled al-Qaida plot to bring down an airliner with an undetectable underwear bomb.
WASHINGTON — No, U.S. travelers won’t soon have to take off their pants along with their shoes when they go through airport security, despite the foiled al-Qaida plot to bring down an airliner with an undetectable underwear bomb. Security procedures remain unchanged so far, a reflection of both government confidence in its checks and recognition that it can’t realistically expect travelers to endure much more.
Airport-security procedures, with their intrusive pat-downs and body scans, don’t need to be toughened, congressional and security officials said Tuesday.
Current U.S. detection methods would likely have spotted the shape of the explosive in the upgraded underwear bomb intercepted by the CIA, said a U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss security precautions. No new security measures are being put in place, the official said.
Officials said the bomb has a more refined detonation system than the underwear bomb that failed to go off aboard a jetliner over Detroit on Christmas 2009.
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FBI experts are picking apart that nonmetallic device to see if it could have taken down an airplane.
Some passengers, meanwhile, were taking the news of the new bomb in stride.
“The terrorists will always be looking to make a bomb,” said Guillaume Viard, a 26-year-old physiotherapist from Nice, France, about to board a flight to Paris at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport.
Retirees Nan and Bill Gartner, also at Kennedy Airport, were on their way to a vacation in Italy
“We were nervous — for a minute,” said Nan Gartner. “But then we thought, we aren’t going anywhere near Yemen, so we’re OK.”
U.S. officials are trying to reassure the public that security measures are strong, and can frustrate such attacks.
“I think people getting on a plane today should feel confident that their intelligence services are working, day in and day out,” John Brennan, the top counterterrorism adviser to President Obama, said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
Meanwhile, a scathing report will be presented Wednesday at a joint hearing of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure revealing that the Transportation Security Administration has shelved $184 million in security equipment in a Texas warehouse rather than place it in the airports for which it was bought.
TSA operations have come under repeated fire from Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, who advocates scaling down the agency and farming out many of its duties to private contractors.
Central to Mica’s criticism has been the contention that the TSA has wasted money on equipment that wasn’t fully tested and did not live up to expectations. He also has questioned the speed with which new devices are deployed to airports.
Also on Tuesday, a government watchdog agency said the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has repeatedly lagged in responding to whistle-blower complaints about urgent safety problems, including takeoff and landing procedures at one airport that have caused planes to nearly collide.
Among the substantiated allegations by the Office of Special Counsel were that controllers at one of the world’s busiest air traffic control facilities in Long Island, N.Y., slept in the control room at night, left shifts early, used personal electronic devices while on duty, ignored proper procedures and manipulated work schedules to gain overtime pay.
In another case, air traffic control procedures at the Detroit Metro Airport continue to bring planes that are taking off too close to planes that are aborting a landing, even though controllers pointed out the problem to FAA management years ago, the Office of Special Counsel said.
Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner presented reporters at a news conference with a recording of a near-collision there on Christmas Day 2009 between a Northwest Airlines plane and an American Eagle regional jet.