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SENATOR CLINTON PRESS RELEASE 12/2

 
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 02, 2005 12:56 pm    Post subject: SENATOR CLINTON PRESS RELEASE 12/2
From Fri Dec 02, 2005 3:00 am to Sun Dec 04, 2005 2:59 am (included)
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For Immediate Release

December 2, 2005



Contact: Press Office

202-224-2243





SENATOR CLINTON CALLS ON SECRETARY CHERTOFF TO REJECT PROPOSAL TO RELAX BAN ON DANGEROUS OBJECTS ABOARD AIRCRAFT, CALLS FOR CONGRESSIONAL HEARINGS ON PROPOSAL



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Washington, DC – Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is urging Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff to block a proposal announced today by the Transportation Security Administration to relax measures put in place after 9/11 to keep objects that could be used as weapons off commercial aircraft. Underscoring that Congress has not been fully briefed on the proposal, Senator Clinton also is calling for Congressional hearings to address potential security problems associated with this announcement.



"New Yorkers know all too well the serious consequences when terrorists exploit aviation security weaknesses. Allowing dangerous objects on our commercial aircraft would hinder the progress this nation has made to improve aviation safety,” said Senator Clinton. “I urge Secretary Chertoff to reject this proposal until all possible security threats are addressed, and I call upon the Republican leadership to hold hearings before any action is taken that could jeopardize our safety and security.”



Below are the text of letters sent by Senator Clinton to Secretary Chertoff and to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.



The Honorable Michael Chertoff

Secretary

United States Department of Homeland Security

Washington, D.C. 20528



Dear Mr. Secretary:



Reports indicate that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is poised to announce changes to the list of items that are prohibited aboard aircraft which would result in potentially dangerous objects being reintroduced onto commercial airplanes such as tools or scissors as long as six or four inches respectively. I understand that TSA Administrator Hawley is planning to make this announcement sometime tomorrow morning but Congress has not been fully briefed on this announcement and I believe such changes could decrease passenger and cabin crew safety. Further, allowing these previously prohibited items onto aircraft will not necessarily decrease wait times for passengers. In fact, it could increase wait times if passengers are unclear about what items are permissible or impermissible. Such confusion could result in further delays if more items are attempted to be carried onboard.



The heinous attacks on September 11th warranted a restructuring of our transportation safety capabilities especially in the area of commercial aviation. While I applaud TSA’s efforts to increase awareness of explosives detection, decrease passenger waiting time, and implement changes that will make security patterns less predictable, it is unclear how allowing such previously prohibited, dangerous items onboard aircraft will assist the TSA in making the flying public more secure.



TSA must adjust and adapt to continuing threats posed to commercial aviation. The changes proposed by the TSA to allow scissors of four inches or less or tools, such as screwdrivers, six inches or less, seems inconsistent with the findings of the 9-11 Commission. The 9-11 Commission report indicates that “[m]ajor vulnerabilities still exist in cargo and general aviation security. These, together with inadequate screening and access controls, continue to present aviation security challenges.” Rather than finding a way to reintroduce dangerous items onboard aircraft, I would rather the TSA seek to address outstanding security vulnerabilities previously identified by the 9-11 Commission.



New Yorkers realize the serious consequences when terrorists exploit aviation security weaknesses to their advantage. The 9-11 Commission highlighted the fact that box cutters and knives were used to carryout the hijackings aboard aircraft used during the September 11th attacks. While those specific items would remain banned, there is no guarantee the items the TSA seeks to allow onboard could not be used for future attacks. The Association of Flight Attendants, the Federal Law Enforcement Officer’s Association, and some airlines have issued their strong disapproval of the TSA’s planned announcement. From the initial information available, this planned decision would hinder the progress this nation has made to improve aviation safety. I ask that TSA not reintroduce dangerous items onboard commercial aviation aircraft until further information addresses all possible security threats. Further, I believe the Congress must be fully briefed by the Department of Homeland Security and TSA and that Congressional hearings should be held in the coming weeks to address potential security problems associated with this planned announcement.



Please do not hesitate to contact my office should additional information become available.



Sincerely yours,

Hillary Rodham Clinton



CC: Kip Hawley, Administrator, TSA





The Honorable Ted Stevens

Chairman

The Honorable Daniel K. Inouye

Co-Chairman

Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation

508 Dirksen Senate Office Building

United States Senate

Washington, D.C. 20510



The Honorable Susan Collins

Chairman

The Honorable Joseph Lieberman

Ranking Member

Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs

340 Dirksen Senate Office Building

United States Senate

Washington, D.C. 20510



Dear Chairman Stevens, Co-Chairman Inouye, Chairman Collins, and Senator Lieberman:



As you may have seen, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced a plan to allow items such as scissors and tools, four and six inches or less respectively, back onboard commercial aviation flights. My fellow New Yorkers experienced directly what happens when gaps in aviation security are exploited by terrorists. I believe that officials at the highest levels of the Department of Homeland Security owe a clear and convincing case that the decision to allow these items back onboard commercial aviation flights serves the best interests of aviation security and every citizen that will fly in the coming weeks, months, and years.



Unfortunately, we received no specific information from the TSA explaining what security rationale exists for reversing the existing policy of barring such items. That the TSA is even considering such a move is alarming given the lethality of the attacks perpetrated by the terrorists aboard the hijacked planes through their use of box cutters and knives. While I applaud the TSA’s efforts to increase attention to explosives detection, decreasing passenger wait time, and construct random patterns to keep those who wish Americans harm from exploiting current security systems, I do not understand why that increased attention must come at the expense of screening out potentially dangerous items.



Further, though reports indicate that the TSA believes that enhanced cockpit doors, armed pilots, and federal air marshals will prevent further hijackings, the reintroduction of the currently prohibited items will leave the flying public and flight attendants at-risk in the main cabin. The air marshals program is one added measure of security but marshals cannot be present on the thousands of flights that take place everyday. We need to maximize our security against future attacks.



I would ask that your Committees look into this matter to ensure that the TSA is not taking a step backward in aviation security. We have made progress in eliminating some of the security vulnerabilities that existed on September 11, 2001, and I do not believe we should ease our vigilance in the weeks and months ahead.



I thank you for your consideration of this matter and look forward to working with each of you moving forward.



Sincerely yours,

Hillary Rodham Clinton
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