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Posted: 9/26/2004 10:08:14 PM EDT

You know, you just CAN'T make shit like this up.

TSA has become the biggest boondoggle in this nation's history.


Lines Pose Risk at LAX

Sat Sep 25, 7:55 AM ET

By Jennifer Oldham Times Staff Writer

Stepped-up screening procedures at Los Angeles International Airport that were designed to make flying safer have created another potential vulnerability: long lines that are a "tempting target for terrorists," security experts said Friday.

Rand Corp. researchers recommended in a 47-page report that airlines and federal officials spend $4 million a year to add skycaps, ticket agents and screeners to speed travelers through lines in terminal lobbies and on sidewalks and into the secure gate area — where they would be less vulnerable to attack.

"We think this should happen right away," said Donald Stevens, a senior engineer at Santa Monica-based Rand and lead author on the highly anticipated study.

The report found that if airlines and the federal Transportation Security Administration, which manages screeners at the nation's airports, hired 5% more personnel at LAX, lines and potential fatalities could be reduced by 80%.

The wide-ranging report — which considered the potential casualties from car bombs, mortars, snipers and surface-to-air missile attacks — is the first public blueprint of the airport's greatest vulnerabilities and the most cost-effective methods to fix them.

LAX, the world's fifth-busiest airport, is considered the state's top terrorist target. An Al Qaeda plot to explode several luggage bombs in terminals was foiled in December 1999.

The Rand report also recommends establishing permanent checkpoints at airport entrances to search vehicles for bombs, screening cargo for explosives and conducting background checks on all airport personnel.

Mayor James K. Hahn ordered the report in May after City Council members threatened to hire a firm on their own to conduct a security analysis of his $9-billion modernization plan for the airport.

The report, which focuses on current vulnerabilities, is the first of two parts. The second part, due next spring, will consider whether Hahn's plan makes the airport more secure.

In a briefing Friday afternoon at City Hall, the mayor stopped short of calling for immediate implementation of Rand's proposals.

"If we can figure out ways to eliminate long lines, then we should do that quickly," Hahn said, adding that the money would need to come from the airlines and the federal government. "We're going to need help."

But Councilman Jack Weiss, who has focused on defending Los Angeles from terrorism, urged the mayor to act now.

"There's no good reason not to implement this immediately," said Weiss, who showed up uninvited at the briefing and spoke over the mayor's objections.

The city's airport agency spent $102 million from Sept. 11, 2001, through June 30 to improve security at LAX. Ongoing projects include a $413-million initiative to rebuild the airport's aging baggage system, a $57-million project to reinforce perimeter fencing, and a $42-million effort to expand a camera surveillance system.

One of the most persistent problems at LAX involves lines in the nine terminal lobbies and at security checkpoints.

Under new federal security rules, officials are able to process only half as many passengers an hour through airport checkpoints as they did before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Queues also snake outside the terminals because truck-size explosives-detection machines eat up space in airport lobbies.

"A luggage bomb in either the skycap line or the check-in line will cause a significant number of fatalities and injuries," the report said. "These bombs could be coordinated with other bombs in other terminals, increasing the number of fatalities."

The report says that was Ahmed Ressam's plan. Ressam was arrested in December 1999 by customs agents at a Port Angeles, Wash., border crossing after they found explosives in the trunk of his car. He was later convicted of plotting with Al Qaeda to bomb LAX.

Adding one ticket counter station per terminal would reduce average line length from 75 people to 15, the Rand researchers found. Similarly, adding one more skycap station would reduce the average line length from 70 people to three, according to the report.

But getting help from the cash-strapped airlines, which have cut staff across the board since the terrorist attacks, and the TSA, which had the number of screeners it can employ capped by Congress last year, is likely to be difficult.

"If future passenger levels at LAX call for more screeners, we will work to that end," said Nico Melendez, a TSA spokesman. "Right now, it's inappropriate to guess what the levels will be in two, four or six years."

After researching 11 "attack options," Rand concluded that LAX was most vulnerable to attacks using bombs planted in a vehicle, a piece of luggage, or in the cargo hold of an airplane.

The specifics of the attack scenarios, such as where terrorists could hide a luggage bomb to inflict the most casualties, were considered so sensitive that the TSA ordered Rand to remove them from the public version of the report. Researchers also removed the number of fatalities they concluded could result from each scenario, saying it was too "gruesome" to leave in.

In addition to dispersing crowds in terminals, the city could protect LAX by spending $7 million to install permanent vehicle checkpoints and $11 million a year to operate them at five airport entrances, the report found. These stations could feature "simple vehicle scales that can identify suspicious vehicles."

The mayor said he supported this idea, adding that he always wanted to move vehicles farther away from airport terminals. "We have to look at a way we can do that without creating traffic gridlock," he said.

The city's airport agency has installed temporary vehicle checkpoints at LAX entrances several times over the last few years after federal officials raised the nation's terror alert index to orange, the second-highest level. These checkpoints backed up traffic and caused many passengers to arrive late for flights.

Several other Rand recommendations, including screening all cargo and enhancing background checks of airport personnel, were considered very expensive. It would cost $111 million for new cargo-screening equipment and $76 million a year to run it. Only a fraction of airplane cargo is now screened. Background checks would cost $34 million a year.

Rand's conclusions parallel an earlier report.

A May 2003 Rand study, requested by U.S. Rep. Jane Harman (news, bio, voting record) (D-Venice), suggested that a wholesale redesign of LAX was unnecessary to do a better job of protecting travelers.

Researchers wrote in that report that security could be bolstered by dispersing crowds at ticket counters, checkpoints and baggage kiosks — all highly visible targets.

Harman said she asked for that study because she wanted to know if Hahn's airport proposal would significantly improve security. In the eight-page report, Rand researchers found that the mayor's plan could lead to more casualties if an attack occurred because it would concentrate travelers at a planned centralized check-in center near the San Diego Freeway.

After that earlier study, Weiss, Harman and other local leaders held a series of closed-door meetings and concluded that the security aspects of the mayor's LAX plan required additional study. Hahn gave in to their requests in May.

Harman and U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (news, bio, voting record) (D-Los Angeles), who represent airport-area constituencies, have expressed concern that the second half of the Rand report will not be available before the City Council votes on the mayor's plan. The council's planning committee will hold a hearing Wednesday on Hahn's modernization plan.

Weiss, a member of the planning committee, said he planned to press the panel to recommend that the Rand proposals be "bumped to the head of the line."

"Everyone's first reaction when they go to LAX is, 'How come the lines are so long?' " Weiss said.

"The fact that this is everyone's common-sense reaction — and it's also the security experts' common-sense reaction — is telling."
Link Posted: 9/26/2004 10:17:12 PM EDT
Yeah, but the great part about that is the solution is to MAKE THE LINES MOVE FASTER!!!

So you will no longer be required to show up for your flight 2 days in advance. 24 hours is now enough time.
Link Posted: 9/26/2004 10:18:29 PM EDT
Every time they pack long lines somewhere trying to make it secure they just make it easier for someone to do damage if they wanted too.
Link Posted: 9/26/2004 10:22:58 PM EDT
darn, I was looking forward to a story about some agitated raiders fan who had stood in line for hours and attacked a TSA person.
Link Posted: 9/27/2004 2:05:28 AM EDT
I've been sayign this (not on here) for a long time. The scene from sword fish with the giant human claymore would dffinatly do some damage.
Link Posted: 9/27/2004 2:08:47 AM EDT

Originally Posted By rasanders22:
I've been sayign this (not on here) for a long time.

Me too.
Link Posted: 9/27/2004 2:11:35 AM EDT

Originally Posted By 87gn:
darn, I was looking forward to a story about some agitated raiders fan who had stood in line for hours and attacked a TSA person.

Probaly Bubb Rubb and Lil Sis?
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