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prescribes such liability limitations) so that, under a supplemental compensation plan, passengers would be entitled to unlimited recoveries for economic damages in international airline accidents. Mr. Chairman, I enlist your support in the effort to secure ratification of the Protocols.
Mr. Chairman, these are not the last initiatives we will be taking on aviation security. As I have mentioned on several occasions, our security system must be reviewed again and again, and I am committed to that process.
Mr. Chairman, our minds are always open to new ideas on ways to improve aviation security. We will continue to consult with this Committee and other appropriate Congressional Committees, with our foreign allies both bilaterally and through ICAO, with all of the major U.S.-flag international carriers, and of couse I personally will continue to listen to the families of the Pan Am victims. We will subject our aviation security system to a continuous and critical review. We have even formed a special team in the Department to develop and evaluate a full range of concepts on how we and the rest of the international aviation community can make the skies safer and more secure. If we find that existing programs need to be changed or augmented, or that reprogramming is needed, we will not hesitate.
Before I close, I would like to address one important public policy question that has been raised in the recent weeks, particularly — and understandably in my view — by the families of the Pan Am 103 victims. And that question is the government's policy on public release of threat information.
The proposal has been made that the government should let the public have more information about the threats made against civil aviation so that prospective travelers can make their own judgments of the risks confronting them and decisions about when, where, and with whom to fly. This is a question we have devoted considerable thought to over the years.
My answer is this: any time we believe that general or specific threats to civil aviation cannot be effectively countered by the security measures available to us, our airlines, and our aviation partners, we take action. We are prepared to cancel endangered flights or discontinue service altogether to and from airports and countries where our citizens and airlines cannot be assured that risks will be kept to a minimum. We work with the State Department to assure that travel advisories are issued when and where justified. And, of course, we work with the intelligence agencies to obtain, evaluate, and act on
information about threats against civil aviation. This is a process that operates continuously, regardless of whether overt or specific threats have been received. Our approach to threats is, in the final analysis, a simple one: We put the information in the hands of the aviation security professionals who can direct appropriate measures to counter the threat.
On the other hand, to flood air travelers with information on threats against civil aviation would seriously confuse everyone, and would not improve air safety, either system-wide or for individual travelers. In the United States alone there are, on average, between two and three threats made against aircraft or airports every day. The vast majority of these are anonymous threats that have no credibility; they are also threats that our security system — especially with the improvements I have just announced — is adequate to handle. If we add to this the numerous threats that are made against civil aviation around the world, publishing such information would wreak unnecessary havoc with the international civil aviation system. It would also increase the incentives for terrorists and other persons to make real or bogus threats, and, ultimately, would come to be largely ignored when travelers realize that virtually all anonymous threats and volunteered information are groundless.
Again, let me emphasize that when we believe an element of the civil aviation system cannot be adequately protected against a credible threat from someone or some organization with the clear intent and capability to carry out a criminal act, the U.S. Government will: 1) recommend that airlines cancel threatened services; and 2) if necessary, either cancel the threatened flights or issue a public travel advisory to alert air travelers.
Mr. Chairman, we have made significant strides in designing and developing systems to protect the traveling public, but we must remain vigilant to counter new tactics and new equipment employed by terrorists. In this effort, we look forward to the Committee's continued support.
That completes my prepared statement, Mr. Chairman. I would be pleased to respond to any questions you may have at this time.
98-418 - 89 - 2
The Honorable Ernest F. Hollings
Science, and Transportation
Dear Mr. Chairman:
I appreciated the opportunity to appear before the Aviation Subcommittee April 13 to set forth the Administration's actions and plans to address the critical issue of international aviation security. I have considered this to be one of my highest priorities since becoming Secretary.
Enclosed are my responses to the follow-up questions posed by