White House, DHS Expand Aviation Security

Airline security took stage center as Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano joined with President Obama and counter terrorism officials to announce improving the technology and procedures used to protect air travel from acts of terrorism. Napolitano outlined five recommendations DHS will pursue to enhance the safety of the traveling public – moves that will impact all travelers in and to the U.S. The recommendations were developed as a result of the security reviews ordered by President Obama following the attempted terrorist attack on December. 25, 2009.

“The attempted attack on Christmas Day is a powerful illustration that terrorists will go to great lengths to try to defeat the security measures that have been put in place since September 11, 2001,” said Secretary Napolitano. “These recommendations will strengthen aviation security—at home and abroad—through new partnerships, technology and law enforcement efforts.”

The five recommendations:

*    Re-evaluate and modify the criteria and process used to create terrorist watch lists—including adjusting the process by which names are added to the “No-Fly” and “Selectee” lists
*    Establish a partnership on aviation security between DHS and the Department of Energy and its national laboratories in order to develop new and more effective technologies to deter and disrupt known threats and proactively anticipate and protect against new ways by which terrorists could seek to board an aircraft
*    Accelerate deployment of advanced imaging technology to provide greater explosives detection capabilities—and encourage foreign aviation security authorities to do the same—in order to identify materials such as those used in the attempted December 25 attack. The Transportation Security Administration currently has 40 machines deployed throughout the U.S., and plans to deploy at least 300 additional units in 2010
*    Strengthen the presence and capacity of aviation law enforcement—by deploying law enforcement officers from across DHS to serve as Federal Air Marshals to increase security aboard U.S.-bound flights
*    Work with international partners to strengthen international security measures and standards for aviation security

Napolitano said she will travel to Spain later this month to meet with her international counterparts in the first of a series of global meetings intended to bring about broad consensus on new international aviation security standards and procedures.

DHS officials have embarked on a broad international outreach effort to meet with leaders from major international airports in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and South America to review security procedures and technology being used to screen passengers on U.S.-bound flights and work on ways to collectively bolster tactics for defeating terrorists.

Napolitano’s recommendations are in addition to the Department’s immediate actions following the attempted attack on December 25, 2009— including enhanced security measures at domestic airports and new international security directives that mandate enhanced screening of every individual flying into the U.S. from or through nations that are state sponsors of terrorism or other countries of interest and the majority of all passengers traveling on U.S.-bound flights, the DHS said.