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THURSDAY, APRIL 13, 1989
Committee On Commerce, Science, And Transportation,
Subcommittee On Aviation,
The subcommittee met at 9:33 a.m. in Room SR-253, Rayburn Senate Office Building, Hon. Wendell H. Ford (chairman of the ■ subcommittee) presiding.
Staff members assigned to this hearing: Steve Palmer, senior professional staff member; Carol Carmody, professional staff member; and John Timmons, minority staff counsel.
OPENING STATEMENT BY SENATOR FORD
Senator Ford. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
The devastation of Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland last December and the resulting loss of 270 innocent lives has focused the attention of air travelers throughout the world on the importance of airport and airline security. With that one swift blow, unknown assailants—and we may know this morning who they are—have called into question our ability to deter terrorist acts against both the U.S. government and its citizens.
The Pan Am 103 incident has also focused the attention of this Senator. As Chairman of the Aviation Subcommittee, I believe we need to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that the United States is capable of preventing a tragedy such as the Pan Am 103 incident from ever happening again.
Some will argue that it is impossible to stop every threat to our air transportation system. But we must strive to accomplish that objective. That is what our hearing is about today.
From this day forward, we must work to develop procedures and technology to assure that we will be capable of stopping terrorist acts in the 1990's. In the past, our aviation security systems have been developed in reaction to earlier acts of terrorism.
We must begin to act positively, to create forward-looking airport and airline security system capable of meeting the challenges of the coming decade.
In the weeks following the Pan Am incident, Transportation Secretary Skinner and the Federal Aviation Administration acted quickly to announce passenger and baggage screening procedures designed to minimize the chance of a future act aboard a U.S. air carrier. And again last week, additional actions were announced relative to the placement of explosive detection devices, treatment
of FAA security bulletins, and location of additional security personnel.
I applaud these actions. But many questions arise from these announcements. Do they go far enough? Who will pay for the new technologies and security procedures?
Clearly, more is needed. We need to bring together the collective wisdom of the intelligence community, Federal aviation agencies, airline industry, airport operators, to develop a comprehensive plan for enhancing aviation security for the future.
I want to welcome Secretary Skinner for his appearance before this subcommittee this morning.
We are also fortunate to have here today two fine Senators, Senator D'Amato from New York and the distinguished Senator who has been a leader in this effort from New Jersey. We welcome also Ambassador McManaway, Associate Director of Counterterrorism in the State Department, and we look forward to the comments of the industry on security issues.
And we appreciate hearing from the victims group also this morning, established in the aftermath of Pan Am 103, allowing us to learn more from their losses.
It is Lautenberg. I do not believe I gave that name. I apologize, Frank. I was trying to say what a distinguished Senator you were and what a leader you were and I forgot your name.
And I am very happy and pleased to have my ranking member on the subcommittee this morning here with us, the Senator who is working very hard in the total arena of aviation, Senator McCain.
OPENING STATEMENT BY SENATOR McCAIN
Senator Mccain. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I am also here to remind you of the names of our colleagues, and I apologize for not fulfilling my duties there.
I do also welcome our two distinguished colleagues, Senator D'Amato and Senator Lautenberg, who have both had a deep and abiding commitment and concern on this issue.
Mr. Chairman, I think you described the situation very well, so I will be brief.
This is obviously a terribly important issue, not only one that has dominated the headlines and the media of this country, but one which we are still—and I do not know how soon we will recover from the terrible tragedy that occurred with Pan Am 103.
I do believe that there is a determination on the part of the government and the American people to do everything we can to prevent a re-occurrence. And I know, Mr. Chairman, that it is not your goal in this hearing to revisit those tragic events, although obviously that will be to some degree a necessity. - I think the focus of this hearing is on trying to prevent future tragedies of this nature. I think that there are some allegations which still need to be addressed, such as that of selective notification, and that is going to have to be addressed at some point in this hearing, I believe, and in the future.
I am somewhat disturbed that our government apparently did less for our citizens than did the Scots, and I hope we can clear this up as soon as possible.
I think it is crucial that we recognize that a part of this equation that we must address is where this terrorism originates. Mr. Chairman, you and I know that there is only one place in the world that manufactures the explosive that was used in the bomb that detonated on Pan Am 103.
And it is of utmost urgency that we address airport security / practices and what we are doing at the airports. It is also crucial that we go to where the root cause, where the beginning of these acts of terrorism is and where they originate.
And unfortunately, we do not see a likelihood of the cessation of some of these terrorist organizations and their activities. But I do believe that as a national policy we must be prepared to respond to acts of terror in other ways besides increasing airport security.
I mean that we must serve notice to terrorist organizations that the United States government and its people will respond to wanton acts of slaughter of American citizens.
I also think it is important to understand, on the aspect of airport security, that it will be expensive. All these new devices that will be necessary in my view to be installed in the major airports of America will be expensive. We are talking about some machinery that costs as much as $800,000 per copy.
I think the American air passenger, which the chairman and I and our two colleagues, all of us qualify time and again as frequent flyers, that this is going to entail delays in airports. We cannot inspect baggage without delays. We cannot inspect persons and their hand luggage without delays.
And so those of us that complain bitterly, as I do from time to time, about the unnecessary, in our view, delays in airports had better stand by, because there is going to be more of them if we are going to ensure the security of our travelers, which obviously has • to be the first obligation.
I think it is impossible to eliminate totally the threat to the lives and property of American citizens in airports, but I believe that the Congress and the government of the United States can do a great deal more. I think that this hearing is an important way to get that effort continuing in its momentum.
I appreciate your involvement and your holding this hearing, Mr. Chairman, and also I look forward to hearing from my colleagues.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Senator Ford. Thank you, Senator McCain.
Senator Danforth. I do not have an opening statement. Senator Ford. Senator Stevens, do you have an opening statement?
OPENING STATEMENT BY SENATOR STEVENS
Senator Stevens. Mr. Chairman, I do not want to delay this. I am on my way to another hearing.
But I read your statement. I just wanted to come by and congratulate you on that statement and tell you that I am firmly in support of what you intend to do.
I would add to your statement the suggestion that maybe we ought to put into effect a provision that would provide insurance coverage for those who are killed as a result of terrorist activities. It would seem to me that a premium put on each one of these airline tickets to cover that type of insurance would be something that should be done.
And I am disturbed about that Warsaw Convention. That is what struck me in your statement, that the current limitation on recovery for a family that does not have adequate insurance is so limited under today's economic conditions that there ought to be some way that we could spin out of that cocoon and ensure that our people have adequate coverage in the event of the loss of a wage-earner in the family from an accident that is caused by terrorist activities.
I just stopped by to commend you. I think all of us are in favor of taking this on. And I do not want to delay my colleagues at all.
Senator Ford. Senator Stevens, you just made my day, because when a fellow that has such deep interest and knowledge would compliment me on a statement, I think it is something I will cherish for a while.
I have a statement that the Chairman, Senator Hollings, would like to have included in the record. [The statement follows:]
Opening Statement By The Chairman
Last December a bomb blew up Pan American flight 103, killed 270 people, and destroyed any notions we had that airline and airport security measures are adequate to deter terrorists. Since then we have heard many stories about specific threats to that aircraft, about massive cancellations at the last minute, about botched notifications of danger, and about bungled handling of the relatives of the deceased. We've had the then Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration announcing immediate measures to counter threats; we've had Secretary Skinner announcing more measures; and just last week Secretary Skinner came out with another series of initiatives to enhance the security of air travel.
The American public demands the highest level of safety. In response to terrorist events in 1985, the Congress enacted the International Security and Development Cooperation Act of 1985 which requires the Secretary of Transportation to assess the effectiveness of security measures at foreign airports, and to consult with the Department of State regarding threats to Americans abroad. I don't know what went wrong but something did. The U.S. government failed to protect its citizens. If the Department of State and the Department of Transportation can't do that, I wonder what their purpose is.
Today I want to hear testimony from all the involved parties including some of the victims' families and find out what happened last December. I also expect to learn what the proposals made by the Secretary of Transportation will do to assure there will be no repetition of the disaster. We are hearing now that what is needed are more security agents and lots of Thermal Neutron Analyzers—both of which will be placed at many overseas locations. It seems to me the foreign governments may have some objections, but I will wait for the Secretary of State to explain that to me.
Finally, I want to offer my sympathy to all the families of the victims—especially those who are here today. I have had the opportunity to meet with some of you and have heard from many others. I assure you I feel a tremendous obligation as a Senator and as the Chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation to make United States aviation system secure for its citizens.
Senator Ford. Senator Lautenberg, we will have your testimony; and then, Senator D'Amato, if you want to proceed, following him. If the panel has any questions, I hope you will stay a few moments. It probably will not be, but under the circumstance it may be.
STATEMENT OF HON. FRANK R. LAUTENBERG, U.S. SENATOR
Senator Lautenberg. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, Members of the Subcommittee on Aviation.
I want to also add my compliments to you, Mr. Chairman, for your forthright statement, your commitment to do something about the situation.
What we examine today by way of the tragedy of Pan Am 103 has a much larger connotation. The families are appropriately concerned about their loved ones lost. The question that is being raised is whether or not a free country like ours can be brought to its knees by terrorists.
We have seen incident after incident that disrupts transporta-" tion, disrupts travel, disrupts commerce, disrupts relationships between countries, like grapes with Chile, with terrorists continuing to win.
And Mr. Chairman, it is essential that we have the kind of commitment that you and members of this subcommittee have to do something about aviation security, because it represents our contact with the marketplace, with recreation, with essential travel, with recreational travel. And it is time that we got on with doing something about this.
In order to do that, I think it is essential that we examine the incident that took place, the bombing of Pan Am 103, and understand it fully, which has thus far evaded the families and, frankly, evaded the Congress and the American people. We just do not have the knowledge.
It was an unprecedented assault on America and American citizens, a terrorist crime. These were not soldiers fighting in a war. They were students, returning from a semester of study abroad.
They were mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, returning home for the Christmas holidays. Many were from my home state of New Jersey.
We have to respond. We have got to find those responsible, and bring them to justice. We have to find out what really happened, and we have to improve our aviation security system to keep this from ever happening again.
To the families and the friends of the victims of Pan Am 103, we promise to keep searching for answers. But where we have answers, we can start the process of improving security.
To his credit, Secretary Skinner has taken the first steps to make our airline passengers more secure. He has called for the installation of new technology to screen for sophisticated explosives, and he has directed FAA to tighten up its security bulletins process.
I know that you are going to be hearing from him this morning. We will surely hear more from him in the future.
But meanwhile, we in the Congress also have to act. We need to develop better technologies to get ahead of terrorists, instead of being one step behind them. As Chairman of the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, I am committed to give my best effort to get the funds to do the job.