© St. Petersburg Times, published June 9, 2002
Luggage-checking system called flawed
WASHINGTON -- The Transportation Department's stopgap method for detecting bombs in checked bags -- a system it intends to install at 429 airports by Dec. 31 -- will not reliably detect explosives in a suitcase, European and American experts say.
The technology, which is meant to detect trace amounts of explosives, is "not really operationally viable," said Norman Shanks, who once was in charge of security at the British Airports Authority, which rejected such a system a decade ago.
The chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee, Rep. John L. Mica, R-Fla., called the planned system "semi-ineffective."
But it may be the best the department can do on the short notice given under the security law passed last November, Mica said. John Magaw, who is in charge of the Transportation Security Administration, told a Senate committee on May 21 that the system the department planned to use was "equivalent" to what Congress wanted -- thousands of giant bomb-detection machines -- if used "with the proper protocol."
But the protocol itself can be flawed, some security experts say, depending on how many checked suitcases are opened for searching and how carefully searches are done.
PARIS -- An Islamic militant with reported ties to key U.S. terror suspect Zacarias Moussaoui was placed under investigation Saturday in connection with a plot to blow up a cathedral in eastern France, judicial officials said.
The man, who has both French and Algerian citizenship, was put under investigation -- one step short of being formally charged -- by antiterrorism judge Jean-Francois Ricard, the Associated Press reported, quoting officials who spoke on condition of anonymity. Police took the suspect into custody on Tuesday from his home in Paris, they said.
The suspect, who was not identified, allegedly had a role in a failed plot to bomb a cathedral in the eastern city of Strasbourg in 2000. The plot was foiled by German police.
TF1 Television reported the suspect had been in contact with Moussaoui, the only man charged in the United States in connection with the Sept. 11 terror attacks. The man also had ties to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorism network, TF1 reported.
Bush considered moving FBI to new department
WASHINGTON -- As President Bush and his aides narrowed their options last month for a major reorganization of the country's defense, they briefly considered a radical change: pulling the much-criticized FBI out of the Justice Department and making it the centerpiece of a new Department of Homeland Security.
The idea had some obvious advantages, participants in the debate said. It would force the hidebound agency to rapidly reorient itself toward preventing another terrorist attack, and clearly make the missions of the J. Edgar Hoover era -- catching spies, investigating bank robberies and kidnappings -- a secondary priority.
"But we decided it would have been a bad idea," Andrew H. Card Jr., the president's chief of staff and the lead architect of the proposed Department of Homeland Security, said in an interview on Friday. "Whatever the benefits, the FBI is a critical arm in law enforcement," Card said, "and it had to serve under the chief law enforcement official of the United States, and that's the attorney general."
Similarly, Bush considered and rejected pulling the National Guard out of the Department of Defense, stripping the State Department of its powers to issue visas and putting the Federal Aviation Administration into the new department. But the first move, he determined, would undermine the military, and the second would risk deep conflict with the countries that negotiate reciprocal visa arrangements with the United States. Moving the FAA would distort the mission of the agency overseeing the nation's airlines, officials concluded.
FAST APPROVAL SOUGHT: President Bush asked Congress in his Saturday radio address to complete work this year on the new terrorism-fighting Cabinet-level agency. House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt said approval should come by Sept. 11.
In Gephardt's response for Democrats to the president's radio address, the Missouri congressman said the nation would give the best possible tribute to victims of last year's terror attacks by creating the department by Sept. 11, the first anniversary of their deaths.
Sen. Richard Shelby, vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Sept. 11 is a realistic goal for creating the new department.
CARLISLE, Pa. -- Saying that America's military needs "new and fresh ways of thinking," Gen. Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told new graduates of the U.S. Army War College on Saturday that the force that acts more quickly in the war on terrorism will win.
"The nature of this threat, to me, demands that we be flexible and adaptable," Myers said. "It will allow us to operate faster and, to me, that equals success."
Most pressing for the nation's military services is to find innovative ways to process and share intelligence, and act more quickly on it than the enemy, Myers said during a 20-minute address at the Carlisle Army Barracks.
"In conventional war, the side that can do that the quickest, in fact, is going to win," Myers said. "So we know the speed of action is going to make a big difference in our success."
Quoting the late Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Myers added: "The next war will be won in the future, not in the past."
SAN DIEGO -- An American Airlines pilot faces misdemeanor charges for toting a loaded gun in his carry-on baggage while trying to board a plane at the San Diego airport.
William F. Blaylock told authorities he uses the gun for hunting and personal protection and had forgotten to remove it from his bag before heading to Lindbergh Field on April 23.
The weapon was detected during airport security screening.
On Friday, prosecutors filed two misdemeanor charges against Blaylock who, if convicted, faces up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. He has been free on bail since April 24 and will be arraigned this week.
The airline wouldn't comment.