WASHINGTON — North Carolina Sen. John Edwards (D) on Friday called for stronger security procedures at airports and seaports to safeguard against terrorist acts like Tuesday's suicide strikes on the Pentagon and World Trade Center that killed thousands of Americans
"What happened on Tuesday was horrendous, but we have to be calm and deliberate in our response," Sen. Edwards said.
"We all mourn for the victims and pray for their families. We all are resolved to find the
cowards who are responsible, and make no mistake, we will respond in a strong way to
what these people have done. As we go forward, we must take all the steps we can to make sure this never happens again," Edwards said.
The Airport and Seaport Terrorism Prevention Act would help develop new technology to detect weapons hidden on passengers in cargo containers.
The measure also would improve the effectiveness of security personnel at airports and seaports. Other provisions detailed in the bill would strengthen safety procedures for airplanes and ships.
Drafted after months of research, the proposed legislation is the product of Edwards' work as a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
The measure also was shaped by testimony from security experts and anti-terrorism specialists on the threat posed by high-tech weapons of mass destruction.
"It has become tragically clear that we need to do a better job screening people who work in airports and seaports. We must develop the technology to more effectively identify security risks in the first place, and we have to strengthen security for crews and passengers," Edwards said.
The bill contains provisions to:
Improve the professionalism of airport screeners through increased training, testing, and technological proficiency requirements.
Require FAA to evaluate implications of moving security screener responsibilities to federal government.
Develop and deploy enhanced technologies to detect possible weapons of mass destruction - including chemical, biological and similar substances establish pilot programs to test new biometric and other technology to ensure authorized access only to secure areas.
Establish airport security committees at each airport, chaired by Federal Security Managers, to work with airport and air carrier personnel to develop security plans, drills, and inspections and to work with FAA officials to enhance security at individual airports.
Require FAA to consider additional sanctions (beyond fines) for carriers/security personnel who fail performance tests.
Reinforce perimeters of airports, including physical protections as well as video surveillance, closed-circuit television, and other technologies.
To improve security aboard aircraft:
Require the FAA to evaluate methods to physically strengthen cockpit and other critical areas of aircraft.
Install emergency communication devices in cockpit and flight attendant areas to provide direct, real-time links to the FAA in event of an emergency.
Require FAA to establish minimum inspection requirements of aircraft (including cargo hold) prior to boarding of any passengers to ensure no weapons or other hazardous materials were left on board; * Require FAA to establish additional precautions to limit access to secure areas by service personnel (caterers, construction workers, etc.).
Require inbound international flights to file manifests with U.S. Customs office prior to landing.
To improve security at U.S. seaports:
Enhance perimeter security of docks and seaports - including physical security as well as increased video and closed circuit TV capabilities.
Establish pilot programs to deploy latest biometric or other technologies that utilized unique personal characteristics to identify port and security personnel.
Require Maritime Administration to develop performance standards for in-bond seals on containers to serve as minimum standards for anti-tampering devices.
Establish task force with government and private industry to enable federal law enforcement (Customs) access to container tracking information - prevents cargo theft and enables Customs to track cargo that has not yet had paperwork filed with Customs.
Establish a grant program for seaport security infrastructure improvements, including non-intrusive technologies aimed at detecting explosive and nonexplosive (chemical, biological or similar) substances.
Establish joint government-industry research and development program within the National Academy of Sciences to assess and improve seaport security.