Panel To Call For National ID Cards
By Graham Rayman
November 15, 2001, 5:27 PM EST
Requiring national identification cards and upgrading security at what they described as the "totally unsupervised" area of private aviation, were two recommendations offered Thursday by a panel of current and former law enforcement officials.
The all-volunteer commission advocates a security survey of all of the nation's smaller private airports, pilot background checks, and the screening of cargo and baggage.
"Private airplanes can take off totally unsupervised, leaving a loophole the size of the Lincoln Tunnel," said state Sen. Roy Goodman, the chair of the senate Investigations Committee, who formed the panel after the Sept. 11 terror attacks. "There is an enormous urgency to this."
The recommendation was one of 50 ideas put forward by the panel Thursday. Panel members acknowledged that the cost of implementing the long list of suggestions would be "enormous," and some of the ideas would be controversial.
One of those may be a suggestion to exempt corporations, which follow anti-terror guidelines, from lawsuits. Another is a requirement for national identification cards, which would contain a computer chip with digital fingerprints, photographs and retinal scans.
Panel member James Kallstrom, a former supervising FBI special agent in New York, said the state is in the process of creating a "state counter-terrorism network," a computer system that would tie together police agencies here and transmit information on threats.
Former New York Police Commissioner Howard Safir said a federal law enforcement agency, like the Department of Justice, should control airport security, not the Federal Aviation Administration. Safir said armed "sky marshals" should ride on every flight, and there should be cameras in every cockpit. "It's been two months and Congress still hasn't decided on these issues," Safir said. "I hope they move quickly."
Among the other suggestions, many of which have already been broached over the past two months:
-- Increase the number of bomb-sniffing dogs for use at airports, bridges and tunnels. The New York Police Department and the Port Authority police departments have fewer than 29 bombing sniffing dogs between them.
-- Improve disaster readiness and security in hospitals, public transportation, malls, airports, and power plants.
-- Create a permanent terrorism committee.
-- Provide emergency plans to coordinate ambulances entering and leaving staging areas to treat the injured in a terrorist attack. Goodman said on Sept. 11 there was a "traffic jam" of ambulances leaving the area.
-- Require foreign airlines to provide their passenger manifests in advance to U.S. authorities.
-- Private citizens and corporations should develop their own disaster plans.
"We're now at war and that requires a special kind of vigilance," Goodman said.