Sunday, July 7, 2002

Armed officers
to patrol airports

The move comes in response
to Thursday's shooting, which
took place in a public area

By Jonathan D. Salant
Associated Press

WASHINGTON >> The new government agency responsible for airline security said yesterday it will place armed law enforcement officers -- uniformed and plainclothes -- throughout the public areas of airports.

The Transportation Security Administration made the announcement in response to a shooting at Los Angeles International Airport on Thursday when three people, including the gunman, were killed. An armed El Al security guard shot the attacker, who authorities say was an Egyptian named Hesham Mohamed Hadayet.

"This incident, even if isolated and regardless of motive, emphasizes that we cannot be complacent about any of the security measures that we put in place at our airports and at the other modes of transportation," the TSA said in a statement.

"Had this event occurred at another airline counter without armed security guards, the situation unfortunately would have been worse," the agency said.

The officers will patrol all public areas of the airports, including ticket counters, the TSA said. The agency declined to discuss how many officers would be deployed, where they would be stationed or how soon changes will take place.

Honolulu International Airport Manager Stanford Miyamoto yesterday said he has received no official word of how soon armed officers would be deployed there, but that "we'd have to comply with whatever directives they give us."

He declined to say whether there are any armed officers now working at the airport, which he described as being "at heightened security."

Because of the high volume of flights in and out of Honolulu, "I'd think we'd be right at the leading edge of whatever would happen in the future," Miyamoto said.

The TSA is in the process of hiring thousands of new employees to perform a variety of security functions at airports.

The undercover investigators, who have transferred to the new security agency from the Federal Aviation Administration, will look for suspicious individuals and intervene when necessary, the TSA said.

The head of an airline passengers advocacy group welcomed the TSA's actions.

"We would certainly support more law enforcement officials in all parts of the airport, but we would expect there would be a tremendous amount of coordination with the multiple police forces that are going to be functioning in this environment," said David Stempler, president of the Air Travelers Association.

The TSA took over responsibility for screening passengers from the airlines in February and faces a Nov. 19 congressional deadline for replacing checkpoint screeners with federal employees.

But Thursday's shooting took place in the airport's public areas, before passengers are screened for weapons and bombs. Airport police patrol the facility, and airlines are responsible for security at the ticket counters.

The TSA said it would put uniformed officers and undercover investigators throughout the airport, both beyond the checkpoints and in public areas.

Star-Bulletin reporter Diana Leone
contributed to this article.

E-mail to City Desk


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