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But we also need better laws. I am preparing a legislative package that would move us forward on three fronts: First, improving threat assessment, notification and response; second, enhancing control of airport access; and third, improving the State Department's response mechanism. I In the area of threat assessment, notification and response, we first need to make sure that FAA has the resources to analyze and relay information quickly. We have got to beef up security bulletins. They should include not just a summary of the potential threat, but specific countermeasures to respond to those threats.
And in line with the Secretary's plan, there should be a mechanism for confirming that a bulletin has been received by the various parties, airlines, et cetera, and that the necessary action has been taken.
Mr. Chairman, we should also give the FAA clear authority to cancel flights or deny landing rights to a foreign carrier when countermeasures seem inadequate.
We also have to look at the technology we have today and what it can detect. Until we can reliably detect in checked baggage destructive devices, like the radio cassette player that destroyed Pan Am 103, we ought to restrict them to where we can find them, such as carry-on bags.
To reduce the risks of explosives being smuggled aboard an aircraft, we should also look at the possibility of forward posting Customs personnel at foreign airports. This would help us know what is in baggage before it gets loaded on a plane and enters our country.
The second area to address is airport access. The Federal law against sneaking into a secure area of an airport apparently is not being implemented as it should be. The Department of Transportation should also revisit its recent rules on airport access. I support the intent behind that rule, but the mechanism is flawed. We have got to have more uniformity.
Next, there is the role of the State Department. Shortly the committee will hear from family members about their treatment by the State Department. Now, we had their testimony in front of my subcommittee and some of the stories that we heard relayed incidents, frankly, that are inexcusable. They added further to the tragedy that these people have experienced by insulting, harsh, even cruel treatment.
Once a tragedy has occurred, nothing can bring back the victims, but the treatment surviving families received tell us something about our government. The Pan Am families deserve better than what they got.
And that is why I propose the State Department designate specific people both in Washington and abroad responsible for responding to incidents. The State Department should clearly outline procedures for obtaining and distributing information to next of kin.
Further, the State Department should provide all possible assistance in identifying, obtaining, and transporting bodily remains and personal effects.
We owe it to the surviving families, to the victims, and to all of those who travel abroad to identify problems and come up with solutions.
We also owe it to them to find out exactly what happened to Pan Am 103. They want a full, independent investigation, and I support them in that. I sponsored a resolution pending before this committee calling on the President to appoint an independent investigative body.
We still need that investigation. It is almost four months now after the accident took place.
I have spoken to Majority Leader George Mitchell about convening a special Congressional investigation, and we hope that we will have some action on that front as well. The families will not rest until their questions are answered, and neither should we.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[The statement follows:]
Statement Of Hon. Frank R. Lautenberg, U.S. Senator From New Jersey
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to testify this morning.
The bombing of Pan Am 103 on December 21, 1988, was an unprecedented assault on America and American citizens. This was a terrorist crime. These weren't soldiers fighting in a war. They were students returning from a semester studying abroad. They were mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters, returning home from the holidays. Many were from New Jersey.
We must respond. We must find those responsible, and bring them to justice. And we must find out what really happened, and improve our aviation security system, to try to keep this from ever happening again.
In the days following the bombing, we've taken a look at aviation security. In spite of all we've learned, many troubling questions remain.
To the families and friends of the victims of Pan Am 103, we promise to keep digging for answers. But where we have answers, we can start the process of improving security.
To his credit, Secretary Skinner has the first steps to make our airline passengers more secure.
The Secretary has proposed that airlines install thermal neutron analysis (TNA) equipment at high risk airports to screen for sophisticated explosives. But, so far, DOT has left open the questions of how the machines will be procured, when they will be installed, and who negotiates with foreign governments for the rights to install the equipment. I'm sure we'll see the details on this proposal shortly.
The Secretary's proposal to tighten security bulletin procedures is more specific, and should be acted on immediately.
I'm sure we'll hear more from Secretary Skinner in the future. Meanwhile, we in the Congress must also act.
We need to continue to develop better technologies, so that we can be ahead of the terrorist, instead of always one step behind. As Chairman of the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, I pledge my efforts to get the funds to do the job.
But we also need better laws. I am preparing a legislative package that would move us forward on three fronts: first, threat assessment, notification, and response. Second, enhancing control of airport access. And third, improving State Department response.
In the area of threat assessment, notification, and response, we need to beef up security bulletins. Generally, they lack detail on specified action and distribution. The right people don't always get them, nor do they always respond as they should. Secretary Skinner noted this, and has taken some steps to improve the situation.
We need to make sure FAA has the resources to analyze and relay the threat information it receives.
Security bulletins should have not just a summary of the potential threat, but also specific countermeasures to respond to the threat. And, in line with the Secretary's plan, there should be a mechanism to confirm that these bulletins get the attention they deserve, by the people who need to see them. There should be a mechanism for confirming that a bulletin has been received, and that the necessary action has been taken.
That includes knowing that the pilot of an affected flight is notified, and given an opportunity to react appropriately.
Combined with this, there should be safeguards for the employee who reports an unsafe or unsecure situation, or who takes action based on a determination that such a situation exists.
Mr. Chairman, we also should give the FAA, the agency responsible for assessing the threats, the clear authority to cancel flights, or deny landing rights to a foreign carrier.
This authority would have to be used carefully, and only when it's determined that countermeasures won't be adequate to protect a flight and its passengers.
We also have to look at the technology we have today, and what it can detect. Until we can reliably detect in checked luggage destructive devices like the radiocassette player that destroyed Pan Am 103, they should be restricted to where we can find them, such as carry-on bags, where they can be inspected by hand.
In order to reduce the risks of explosives being smuggled aboard an aircraft, we should also look at the possibility of "forward posting" Customs personnel at foreign airports.
We need to know what's in baggage before it gets loaded on a plane and enters our country. Having it inspected at the starting point, rather than at the end point, would help us do that. 7 Mr. Chairman, El Al, Israel's national airline, is renowned for its security. A key component of El Al's security program is the use of passenger profiles and extensive questionnaires. The Department of Transportation should promulgate regulations or orders to see such procedures implemented in security-sensitive areas.
The second area we must address is airport access.
The Department of Transportation should also revisit its rules on airport access, issued in January. The intent behind that rule is a good one, and I support it. But 1 the mechanism is flawed. There's no requirement for uniformity among airports. This could lead to confusion and uneven levels of security from facility to facility.
Today, if I go to a department store virtually anywhere in this country, and use my credit card to pay for a purchase, the sales clerk can dial into a databank, and within seconds, pull up information on my credit. It would appear that a similar method could be used with regard to airport access.
Those having access to secured areas would be given a magnetic strip ID card, which could be read at any airport in the country. If an employee is fired, or loses authority to access secure areas, that information could be recorded through such a system instantly, just as the amount of purchases is recorded for a credit card. The technology exists. It should be put to use.
In 1987, Congress made it a Federal crime for someone to gain unauthorized access to a secure area of an airport. However, the delay in clearly defining "secure . areas" apparently has delayed full implementation of that law. That must change. We should use every means at our disposal of keeping secure areas secure.
Next, there's the role of the State Department. Shortly, the Committee will hear from family members about their treatment by the State Department. I've heard the stories, and it's inexcusable.
Once a tragedy has occurred, nothing can bring back the victims. But the treatment surviving families receive tells us something about our government. These people deserve better than what they got.
That's why I propose that the State Department designate specific persons, both in Washington and abroad, responsible for responding to incidents.
The State Department should clearly outline procedures for obtaining and distributing information to next of kin. Further, State should provide all possible assistance in identifying, obtaining, and transporting bodily remains and personal effects.
The State Department has said that its initial efforts to coordinate response to the Pan Am 103 bombing was its inability to obtain the passenger manifest in a timely manner. My legislation will make it clear that State has the authority to obtain such documents, immediately.
The State Department should also explore the possibility of using machine-readable passports. This could expand the information contained on passports, and make their use more efficient.
A separate issue is compensation to victims of aviation tragedies. Currently, the Warsaw Convention limits liability of an air carrier to $75,000, unless willful misconduct can be proven. This liability cap is clearly inadequate today.
Montreal Protocols 3 and 4 would amend the Warsaw Convention, raising strict liability to approximately $135,000, and providing for an additional $500 million in liability per plane.
The Administration supports ratification of the Montreal Protocols. The Senate should consider these international agreements. I'll be calling on the Foreign Relations Committee to hold hearings in this area in the future.
Mr. Chairman, these are a few of the issues that have come out in the wake of Pan Am 103. There will be more.
We owe it to the surviving families, to the victims, and to all those who travel abroad to identify problems and come up with solutions.
But we also owe it to them to find out exactly what happened to Pan Am 103. They want a full, independent investigation. I support them.
I sponsored a resolution, Senate Resolution 86, that calls on the President to appoint an independent investigating body to look into the issues raised by the destruction of Pan Am 103. Senate Resolution 86 is pending before this Committee. We still need that investigation.
The families have called for an independent congressional investigation. I have talked with Majority Leader Mitchell about this, as well.
The families won't rest until the questions are answered. Neither should we.
Senator Ford. Thank you, Senator Lautenberg.
STATEMENT OF HON. ALFONSE M. D'AMATO, U.S. SENATOR FROM
Senator D'amato. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman, members of the panel, I am delighted to have the opportunity to discuss legislation concerning the public disclosure of credible security threats. Senators Grassley, Mikulski, and Dodd are co-sponsoring S. 596, which has been referred to the Commerce Committee.
The tragedy of Pan Am Flight 103 has exposed our vulnerability to international terrorists in excruciating detail. On April 3rd, Sec- * retary Skinner announced important steps to close the security sieve, including requirements for advanced technology explosive detection devices. The Secretary deserves credit for his rapid response to this serious problem.
It is going to take some time, though, before the Department of Transportation's new security initiatives are fully implemented. Thermal neutron analysis machines for detecting plastic explosives in checked baggage cannot be deployed overnight, especially in airports overseas. More needs to be done now to address the problem of improvised explosive devices concealed in electronic products and elsewhere.
Also, I believe that on certain high-risk flights El Al-type security procedures are absolutely essential, including extensive hand searching of baggage. Senator McCain indicated that measures of this type will undoubtedly require a1 new attitude for the traveling public. However, I think the public is willing to bear with this inconvenience, Mr. Chairman, if they know that this is going to result in reducing, I think, much in the way of the kinds of threats that they are now exposed to and much of the dangers.
In my view, the present policy of not informing the public and flight crews about credible threats—and I would like to again say, credible, hot crank, threats—is flawed and must be corrected. Certainly it should be reconsidered. The public and flight crews should not be flying blindly, and I believe they have a right to know.
I think that where there is a credible security threat—passengers and flight crews have a right to know. This does not mean disclosure of the tens of thousands of bits of security related information that flows through to the FAA each year. Instead, there are approximately 30 FAA security bulletins a year that could be considered to be credible security threats.
And that is what S. 596 provides for. It provides for public disclosure of their nature. It does not, nor should it, jeopardize securitygathering apparatus. Public disclosure of credible threats does not have to reveal that kind of detailed information. It does not have to expose the security-gathering network.
I suggest, Mr. Chairman, that in those isolated few cases where a credible threat exists, the crew that is going to fly a plane that may be under target and the passengers that may be taking that plane have a right to know about the security threat.
Editorials in the Washington Post and New York Times this week have in effect painted disclosure as an "all or nothing matter." Let me make it clear once more that my legislation would not mandate the disclosure of every threat, nor would it expose confidential sources.
S. 596 focuses on the disclosure of threats that the FAA determines are credible, coinciding roughly with the 30 security bulletins issued by the FAA each year. Disclosures of this magnitude will not cause undue disruption to the aviation industry.
The tens of thousands of bits of intelligence information that are reviewed by the FAA each year will not be disclosed, because the vast majority do not result, again, in what we would assess as credible threats.
I am convinced, Mr. Chairman, that we can devise a system of disclosing potential threats to aviation without exposing our intelligence sources. The public does not need to know the nitty-gritty details of threat analysis and airline security countermeasures.
I do not recommend the widespread dissemination of the entire text of security bulletins. Instead, it is important for the public to know that a credible threat exists, with identifying information on particular flights that may be affected.
We are all going to have to live with added inconvenience, on international flights in particular. But added inconvenience is the price that we are going to have to pay in light of the demonstrated capabilities of international terrorists.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Senator Ford. Thank you, Senator.
I have no questions.
Senator Lautenberg had to leave. Senator McCain, do you have some questions of Senator D'Amato?
Senator Mccain. Just a comment, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, not only for your involvement in this issue, Senator D'Amato, but your continuing efforts to address this and related aviation issues.
I have one question as regards your resolution, which by the way I think is an excellent one. I appreciate your initiative in bringing this to the Congress, because I think that one of the real problems with the Pan Am 103 tragedy is this situation as to whether those passengers should have been notified or not.
How in your view do you discriminate between the unfounded allegations which, as you mentioned, happen on thousands of occasions, and the one, or the 30 or so, I think you mentioned per year,