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Step up airport security

Nevada Appeal editorial board

Never again do we want to hear someone complain about the “inconvenience” of airport security.

Those inconveniences have bred a complacency that allowed at least 18 terrorists through security at Boston and Washington, D.C., airports, arm themselves on board and bring about the worst terrorist attack on American soil.

Federal aviation officials have promised tough new measures, and it’s true hindsight is 20-20 for all of us. But those officials seem hesitant to place armed officers – the “sky marshals” of the 1960s hijacking wave – aboard domestic flights.

Sky marshals absolutely are needed. Without them, there is less security aboard a jetliner than at a typical high-school football game.

Airlines have depended on flight attendants, the people who serve us peanuts and sodas, to enforce the law in the air. Despite their training and willingness to take on that role, flight attendants too often have been overwhelmed simply by drunk, unruly passengers – let alone armed terrorists on a suicide mission.

Similarly, American airports do little to provide evidence of who actually is boarding an airplane. How often have frequent fliers snickered at the ritual of showing a photo ID at the ticket counter? Nineteen-year-olds across the country have more trouble buying beer.

Airports should install security cameras at boarding gates to snap a photo of each passenger. If we tolerate such an invasion of our privacy when we buy a pack of gum at a convenience store or withdraw money from an ATM machine, then we can certainly tolerate it as we board a passenger plane.

Such photos may not have prevented Tuesday’s terrorist attack, but the FBI today would have at least as much evidence as investigators in a 7-Eleven robbery.

Finally, the professionalism of security forces at America’s airports must be significantly upgraded. We don’t mean to disparage a whole group of workers with too broad a brush, but what airline passenger hasn’t occasionally scoffed at a lackadaisical attitude as they pass through the metal detector and submit their carry-on luggage to an X-ray machine? How tough would it be to outwit a few of those security officers?

Apparently, it wasn’t that difficult for a sizable band of terrorists – who were then able to board flying bombs and commandeer them with only a handful of flight attendants, pilots and, perhaps, passengers to stop them.