Air security tighter, but big holes remain |

Air security tighter, but big holes remain

Nevada Appeal Staff Reports

By Nevada Appeal editorial board

The cost of feeling more secure from terrorism on airline flights just went up.

On Monday, the United States began taking photographs and fingerprints of people from most foreign countries who fly into U.S. airports. In response, some countries such as Brazil are now photographing and fingerprinting Americans who fly into their countries.

Few of us will be affected, at least not frequently, by such precautions on international flights. But they are the latest reminders of how significantly the world has changed since Sept. 11, 2001, and how infringements on privacy that perhaps once would have been unacceptable are becoming routine.

If they prevent an act of terrorism, most would agree, then they are a small sacrifice. But there is still much room for improvement, which makes us wonder if the priorities for air-safety security are in the right place. For example:

– Although security agencies will now begin collecting photos and fingerprints for thousands of travelers, there remains no single database against which to double-check the identities of suspected terrorists vs. innocent tourists.

The high alert on flights coming to Los Angeles from France over the holiday season turned on the names of six suspected terrorists, all of whom turned out to be false alarms. They included a small child and an elderly woman. It’s good to be overcautious, but it’s far from a perfect system.

– Despite instructions from Congress, the Federal Aviation Administration has been slow to arm airline pilots. The best defenses against a hijacking are an impenetrable cockpit and armed pilots, yet the FAA has dragged its feet on the program.

– Too much cargo is loaded on passenger flights without being properly screened and X-rayed. While passengers and their luggage go through extensive searches, it’s still too easy to place other kinds of freight on jets.

We pray there will be no airline-oriented attacks in the future. We hope the security measures in place will catch would-be terrorists and ease the concerns of all travelers. Unfortunately, we also know there are some big gaps in the system.