Airport Security

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The crash of TWA Flight 800 combined with increased terrorism in airports had led to more rigid security measures. Anyone who has flown recently has discovered that at most airports when you want to get your boarding pass, you must show a picture identification. This same procedure is followed when checking your baggage outside the terminal building.

Considering the bombing of the World Towers, the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, and the bomb found in Atlanta Americans need to take security for all public places more seriously. This is especially true at airports where the security measures taken in other countries, such as Britain and Israel, are far more rigid and effective. Given the alarmingly increased numbers of terrorist attacks in the world, it is only prudent to institute and comply with rigid security standards at all airports no matter where they are located. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

Most of the security devices being used in airports today are the same as those used in the 1970s when the major concern was hijackings, not terrorist bombings. These machines can detect metal but they cannot detect the sophisticated explosive materials used in today's world. Even more frightening is the fact that most of the luggage and mail checked for domestic flights is not even X-rayed (Fischetti 38).

Flagrant violations at many airports even in the United States have been discovered during "spot-checks" of security measures. This paper will discuss some of the problems found, the major problem areas, why terrorists choose their targets and the various technological devices that could dramatically improve security at all airports.

The airline that has the best reputation for security is El Al, the Israeli national airline. Isaac Yeffet who was director of security for El Al for six years was a member of a team that conducted a review of major airports in the world in the late 1980s. The team found flagrant abuses and violations of basic security measures in nearly every airport they visited including the loading of uninspected baggage that had not even been x-rayed (Barnes 135). The report was so well known, it is amazing that some of the same violations found more than a decade ago still exist today.

Why Terrorists Select Specific Locations

Terrorist acts are typically a response to a specific political or military act (Barnes 132). In recent years, terrorists have attacked on the anniversaries of the death of a leader who supported their cause (Searle, 2). They look for the weakest spots that will also create the most fear (Barnes 132). Airports and airplanes are a prime target due to the large numbers of people who are placed in jeopardy by their threats or the large numbers who will dies as a result of a bombing. Airports, in many cases, are easy targets for a variety of reasons: they are often understaffed; security personnel do not receive adequate and ongoing training; machines used to detect possible materials are out of date; security measures that are in place are not followed (Searle, 2). It is surprisingly easy to gain access to restricted areas in many airports in the world, including areas that lead directly to the tarmac where planes are parked.

Security Problems

Airports where significant problems with security can be found are not limited to countries where internal strife has been present for years nor are they limited to Asian or Arabian countries although the incidence is far greater in these countries. For instance, there are periodic hijackings and bomb threats on the route between Beijing and Taiwan, China; the security measures and adherence to them vacillates between good and poor. But other countries do not implement appropriate security measures at all; Athens, Greece is one of those (Strecker 161).

Dulles International Airport is a major hub in the world. Dignitaries from all over the world fly in and out of this...
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