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Hon. Frank R. Lautenberg, U.S. Senator from New Jersey, opening remarks ...
Bert Ammerman, statement of .
Prepared statement ...........
Prepared statement ........
Brian K. Moreau, vice president, Independent Union of Flight Attendants.......
Prepared statement ...
TUESDAY, MARCH 14, 1989
Washington, DC. The subcommittee met at 1 p.m., in room SD-124, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Hon. Frank R. Lautenberg (chairman) presiding.
Present: Senators Lautenberg, Harkin, Mikulski, D'Amato, Kasten, Domenici, and Grassley.
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION
STATEMENT OF SAMUEL K. SKINNER, SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION ACCOMPANIED BY RAY SALAZAR, FAA AVIATION SECURITY
OPENING REMARKS OF SENATOR LAUTENBERG Senator LAUTENBERG. We are going to call the hearing of the Subcommittee on Transportation of the Senate Appropriations Committee to order.
I am joined here by my distinguished colleague, Senator D'Amato, who is the ranking Republican member of this subcommittee, with whom I have worked very closely on transportation matters.
We are pleased to have Secretary Skinner from the Department of Transportation with us, and we will be reviewing testimony from several panels.
We have got a long hearing, but there are some things that need to be said early on.
On December 21, 1988, Pan American Flight 103 was brought down over Lockerbie, Scotland. It was brought down through an act of terrorism. A total of 259 people on board were murdered, and another 11 were killed on the ground.
It was one of the most massive terrorist attacks in history aimed at American citizens. It was an attack on our Government. It was an attack on our people just like a bombing of one of our embassies. Our fellow citizens on that tragic flight represented all of us.
How do we console the wife who has lost a husband, or a husband who has lost a wife? How do we console children who lost parents and parents who have lost children? Perhaps there is no way. But what we must do is to take the steps necessary to make sure that others are spared the anguish that these families experienced.
What I have learned already about the tragedy of Flight 103 forced me to examine, to review the shortcomings of the response from several sources, Government included.
Now, from what I have heard I am not certain that our Government has been as responsive as it should have been. I am impressed by the families' willingness to put aside their grief momentarily in the interest of preventing future tragedies. I applaud their bravery to examine the case over and over again, sensing how painful it must be because of their interest in the security of others.
Yesterday, I, with Secretary Skinner, visited the Federal Aviation Administration's Technical Center in Pomona, NJ. We reviewed the progress on their attempts to find technological answers so that we might fight terrorism more effectively.
We need to use this country's resources to help solve these problems so that we can prevent terrorism by detecting explosives before they unleash their lethal power.
That is not all. We need to make sure that the agencies charged with protecting our citizens here and abroad have the resources to do the job. We need to make sure that our citizens are kept out of harm's way. We need to make sure that people like Rashid and Hamadei, terrorists, are prosecuted to the full extent of the law, and we need to make sure that all parties involved with aviation, whether it be government or aviation companies or employees, are fully committed to stopping these terrorist acts.
I am committed to make sure that this subcommittee does everything within its power to prevent attacks like the one that occurred with Pan Am 103.
Now, we are going to be short of time today. We have a lot of ground to cover. We have a large number of panels. I would invite my colleague and ranking member of this subcommittee to make his opening statements and then we will go to the witnesses and we will ask as much as possible for summary statements so that we can proceed with the questions.
Senator D'Amato. STATEMENT OF HON. ALFONSE M. D'AMATO, U.S. SENATOR FROM NEW
YORK Senator D'AMATO. Well, Mr. Chairman, let me thank you for calling this hearing as expeditiously as you have. And thank your staff for their work in this matter.
Let me also join with you, Mr. Chairman, in extending my deepest condolences to the families and to the friends of those aboard Flight 103. A number of them are here today.
Mr. Chairman, I requested this hearing because I have some very serious doubts, as I know you do, and concerns about the sufficiency of our Government's response in the wake of the Pan Am disaster.
Just last Friday I received a letter from CIA Director Webster in which he pointedly referred to an ongoing, and I quote, “significant criminal and terrorist threat to commercial carriers generally.”
As Director Webster further stated, and I quote, “The greatest continuing terrorist threat to American travelers will be that of attack by Middle Eastern terrorist groups against United States and Israeli interests abroad."
Now, just how well are we prepared to meet these heightened risks? Can we reasonably assure international air travelers that the kind of tragedy we saw on Pan Am 103 will not happen again or, at the very least, that we will take every possible conceivable step to minimize them?
I think we have a lot of work to do before such assurances can be made.
Tomorrow, Mr. Chairman, I will be introducing legislation to help ensure that our Government makes information about credible threats to airlines security available to all passengers and all flight crews. Never again should just a few officials be warned, as it was apparently the case. Never again.
And I am heartened by Secretary Skinner's public comments and comments to this committee should there be a double standard as it relates to giving information to some and not to those, the traveling public and the flight attendants.
Mr. Chairman, I know there are many questions and questions about whether or not such legislation would jeopardize air travelers, would create chaos. It is certainly not intended to do that, but I don't think we should jeopardize people's lives for a profit, and I think there is a manner in which we can enact and implement legislation that will ensure that to the best of our ability that such an event, such a terrorist act, will not take place in the future and that people will have a fair opportunity to be-to make a judgment as to whether or not they are going to use that mode of transportation where there is the so-called credible threat.
Mr. Chairman, I thank you for calling this hearing again as expeditiously as you have, and I know that the families of the victims are deeply moved by your speedy consideration.
Senator LAUTENBERG. Thank you very much.
In order to move the hearing along, we are not planning to take any statements other than the chairman and the ranking member. In fairness, however, to the Senators present, we will take a short summary of any opening statements that you might make and ask that you submit the full statement for the record.
Senator MIKULSKI. STATEMENT OF HON. BARBARA A. MIKULSKI, U.S. SENATOR FROM MARY.
LAND Senator MIKULSKI. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I do ask unanimous consent that my statement be included in the record.
Senator LAUTENBERG. Without objection. [The statement follows:)
STATEMENT OF SENATOR MIKULSKI Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to thank you for calling this hearing on aviation security. I understand that we will hear from three families of victims of the explosion and crash of Pan Am 103. I want to welcome Mr. Ammerman, Mr. O'Connor and Mrs. Coker. I hope that what we hear today from Secretary Skinner, the State Dept. and the industry will give some assurance that steps have already been