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JOINT LETTER TO THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

Hon. Dennis Hastert
Speaker
U.S. House of Representatives

Hon. Richard Gephardt
Minority Leader
House of Representatives

Senator Thomas Daschle
Majority Leader
U.S. Senate

Senator Trent Lott
Minority Leader
U.S. Senate

RE: Aviation Security Legislation

Dear Congressional Leaders:

On September 11th , 19 foreign terrorists armed with knives and box cutters, including eight terrorists with pilot training, hijacked four airliners within an hour, destroying the World Trade Center, part of the Pentagon, killing over 5,000 persons (most of them on the ground), and causing untold damage to U.S. economy. This shocking event showed the inadequacy of the present aviation security system and the deadly consequences of having a weak, uncoordinated and largely privatized aviation security system.

Since September 11th, the terrorist threat has only grown with a war being declared on international terrorist organizations, military action initiated in Afghanistan, top national leaders warning the public of the likelihood of more attacks, and the onset of mailed anthrax letters.

In our view, the current aviation security system operated by airlines, airports and private security companies under FAA oversight and regulation cannot deal with terrorist threats of the magnitude America now faces. Even with closer federal supervision and support, this system is cannot realistically meet the threat of a new aviation terrorism using educated, well financed teams of terrorists with pilot training, supported by large international networks of terrorist organizations with the covert backing certain foreign governments plus a willingness to commit suicide attacks.

The current system has yet to secure against aviation bombings, over 12 years after the terrorist bombing over Lockerbie Scotland in 1988, which was previously thought to be the most serious form of aviation terrorism. Aviation security was been the subject of major legislation in 1990 and 1996 and has been criticized by two presidential commissions (the President’s Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism (1990) and the White House Commission of Aviation Safety and Security), all of which failed to reform and met even the known threats of the past.

The restoration of public confidence in air travel, which was deeply shaken by the attacks of September 11th, is essential to the stabilization and recovery of air travel and related industries. This requires strong national leadership and prompt action by the Congress on pending aviation security legislation which has been stalled in the House of Representatives for nearly three weeks.

We need dramatic and visible improvements in aviation security. Never again should U.S. civilian aircraft be able to be used as weapons of mass destruction. Even with improvements made since September 11th, the current system is vulnerable and this situation is likely to continue unless Congress acts appropriately.

Since September 11th some aviation security improvements in commercial aviation have been implemented, but there are many others that remain to be done. Moreover, some post September 11th aviation security restrictions have been lifted by the FAA without other good security measures to replace the emergency measures.

It is high time to recognize that the private sector operation of the nation’s aviation security system under government regulation in operation over the past 30 years has failed and must be replaced with a federal government operated system. We need a unified U.S. government aviation security system, with standardized procedures, using the best available technology, operated by highly trained and motivated security personnel who are U.S. citizens and can pass both criminal history and national security background checks, with access to the best information available to the nation’s intelligence and law enforcement agencies. The funding should come from the federal government’s budget for national security and the war on terrorism, not from a new tax on airline tickets.

Airlines, airports and their employees are in the business of providing public transportation. Similarly, the U.S. DOT, the FAA and the transportation committees of Congress are not national security or law enforcement agencies. Law enforcement and national security are the responsibilities of government, and most particularly the federal government in defending against terrorism. Tinkering with the present system by adding another layer of federal supervision and regulation in the Transportation Department or FAA is also likely to fail. Moreover, we should not even consider retaining such a system and again risk U.S. national security and the lives of thousands of Americans to perhaps even more devastating aviation terrorist attacks in the future.

Accordingly, we urge that a nonpartisan aviation security bill be drafted and enacted in the next week as consensus leadership legislation. This is a matter of the highest national importance that requires your leadership in close consultation with the White House. Such legislation should provide for a federal aviation security agency to both operate the security system and to work with the aviation industry and other agencies responsible for homeland defense. Unless we learn from past mistakes we may be doomed to repeat them.

Sincerely,

John Ward, Association of Professional Flight Attendants
Patricia Friend, Association of Flight Attendants
Captain Robert Miller, Independent Pilots Association
Joan Claybrook, Public Citizen
Kevin Mitchell, Business Travel Coalition
Nancy McKinley, International Airline Passengers Assoc.
Paul Hudson, Aviation Consumer Action Project (ACAP)

Dated: October 25, 2001

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Call APFA

Contract & Scheduling Desk
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Phone: (817) 540-0108

Chat APFA

After-Hours Live Chat
M-F: 3:00PM - 11:00 PM (CT)
Sat-Sun: 9:00AM - 5:00PM (CT)

APFA Events

Virtual Quarterly Membership Meeting – July 11

July 11 @ 11:00 am - 12:30 pm

APFA Headquarters
1004 West Euless Boulevard
Euless, Texas 76040

M-F: 9:00AM - 5:00PM (CT)
Phone: (817) 540-0108

Call APFA

Contract & Scheduling Desk
M-F: 7:00AM - 7:00PM (CT)
Phone: (817) 540-0108

Chat APFA

After-Hours Live Chat
M-F: 3:00PM - 11:00 PM (CT)
Sat-Sun: 9:00AM - 5:00PM (CT)

APFA Events

Virtual Quarterly Membership Meeting – July 11

July 11 @ 11:00 am - 12:30 pm
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