Archive for Sunday, August 27, 2006

Overseas airports can be weak link

August 27, 2006

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— A passenger's stick of dynamite on a flight from Argentina to Houston exposed a weak link in aviation security: International airports are not always as secure as those in the United States.

U.S. and Argentine authorities were investigating how the explosive made it onto the airplane in a college student's checked bag. The dynamite was discovered during a baggage search in an inspection station at Bush Intercontinental Airport shortly after a Continental Airlines flight landed Friday.

Officials said terrorism was not involved and that the student said he works in mining and often handles explosives.

The head of the Transportation Security Administration said the government is aware of the potential problem posed by international airports and is taking steps to fix it.

"We are focused on getting a base level of security around the world," Kip Hawley said in an interview to air today on C-SPAN. "We'll put in additional measures where we think we need to."

Airline passengers traveling from U.S. and British airports are now barred from bring onboard any liquids and gels after an alleged terrorist plot was broken up in Britain. Authorities said the terrorists planned to use liquid explosives to blow up as many as 10 U.S.-bound airplanes simultaneously.

Many countries use bomb-detection equipment for checked baggage that does not meet U.S. standards, according to a report last year by the Homeland Security Department.

It was not immediately clear what kind of bomb screening equipment is used in Buenos Aires Airport in Argentina. But Bob Hesselbein, the national security committee chairman for the Air Line Pilots Assn., said Saturday the equipment used in the U.S. would have detected a stick of dynamite.

"It will identify chemicals common to dynamite," Hesselbein said.

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