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CHICAGO Last week I announced a crackdown by special agents of the FAA and DOTs Inspector General focused on lapses in the security system currently operated by the airlines.
Since then we have stopped flights; closed, searched and reopened concourses at nine major airports; and emptied airplanes to re-screen all passengers when we found that the airlines security screeners had not followed proper procedures.
Still, problems remain. Last Saturday a man carrying numerous knives and other forbidden items got past the screening checkpoint here at OHare.
These failures are evidence to me that the airlines are still not making the necessary investment in security. Imagine if pilots got lost and engines wouldnt start. The airlines would take immediate action. I want them to commit the same resources and place the same importance on the security of their passengers.
I consider the OHare case a failure of dramatic dimensions. I am recommending that the FAA begin enforcement actions which could lead to a substantial fine against United Airlines; in addition, we are requiring United Airlines to conduct a re-training of all OHare screeners. I have asked the FAA to supervise that training.
The OHare incident and others like it underscore the urgency with which Congress must agree on the measures called for under the Presidents aviation security package.
The federal government must take direct control of the security system. At the moment, the screeners at all our airports remain contract employees of the airlines.
Congress is about to reassign responsibility to the federal government, but until that transition is complete, we are going to hold airlines and their screening companies accountable. The airlines cannot wash their hands of this duty and there should be no doubt as to our determination and resolve.
I am convening a meeting with the CEOs of the airlines next week they are still responsible for security under current law to make sure they understand our new posture.
Until then, we are going to continue to operate on a zero-tolerance basis. When I say zero-tolerance, that means zero-tolerance.
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