Airport Security Policies Term Paper

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Airport Security Policies

Few events in life have the potential to impact each and every single member of society, whether it is on a macro (indirect) or micro (direct) level. Even fewer such events actually do impact every single citizen. The Columbine school shootings, the Kent State university shootings, the Oklahoma city bombings, Pearl Harbor, and Vietnam are just a few of the events which are forever embedded into the psyche of millions of Americans. On September 11, 2001, two airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center buildings in New York, another airplane crashed into the Pentagon, and a fourth airplane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. In addition to the sheer magnitude of these airplane crashes, what makes these crashes notable is the fact that all four airplanes were hijacked by suspected terrorists. As a result of these horrific terrorist attacks, thousands of individuals lost their lives in an instant, countless others were left to stand by helplessly, to learn to rebuild their lives without their loved ones.

This paper analyzes and examines airport security policies before and after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. In Part II, the airport security policies in place during the Clinton administration and before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks are discussed. Part III examines the airport security policies implemented by the Bush administration after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. In Part IV, the positions of Congress and various interest groups regarding airport security policies are outlined. Finally, this paper concludes with recommendations for developing and implementing airport security policies that if properly developed and implemented, will prevent events such as the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks from occurring.

II. AIRPORT SECURITY POLICIES DURING THE CLINTON

ADMINISTRATION

In addition to the countless number of innocent lives that perished in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, what will be remembered is the lax airport security polices that existed prior to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The following quote from Senator Max Cleland (D-Georgia) provides the best illustration of airport security policies before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks:

What happened is we dumbed down the security system, because an airline is going to want to cut cost, specifically when we have a downturn in the economy and they are fighting for their lives... So, if you have the airlines responsible for $1.8 billion worth of security at 700 checkpoints in America, they're dumbing down the system... They go to the low bidder on a contract... Then, the contractor is going to go to the lowest cost person out there -- minimum wage people -- so they can make a little money."

According to the General Accounting Office, in the year 2000 the starting salary for security screeners at 14 of the nation's 18 largest airports was $6.00 or less, a particularly unimpressive figure given that the federal minimum wage is $5.15 per hour. In summary, prior to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, while airlines were responsible for airport security, they bid the task out to private security firms who then looked for those individuals who were willing to accept minimum wage (or slightly more). While money is not and should not be a determining factor in the level of motivation an employee has towards his or job, reasonable minds concur that the higher someone is paid, the more likelihood there is that they will be enthusiastic about and productive at their job.

III. AIRPORT SECURITY POLICIES AFTER THE SEPTEMBER 11, 2001 TERRORIST ATTACKS

In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, airport security has risen to the forefront of individual and national concern. As a response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the exposure of numerous weaknesses in airline and airport security, the Federal Aviation Administration immediately grounded all United States flights and directed all United States airports to meet new heightened security guidelines. The changes mean longer lines for passengers and slower operations for airports. Some of the new restrictions include: a total ban on knives of any material (previously, knives with blades shorter than 4 inches had been allowed) and the fact that all but ticketed passengers are restricted from proceeding past airport metal detectors. Also, the use of federal air marshals, common in the early 1970s during a spate of hijackings, was stepped up and there are now more physical checks on passengers.

Another response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks was the creation and implementation of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act. The Aviation and Transportation Security Act expanded the number of baggage screeners, imposed standards for their training, and made them federal employees for an interim period of time. Starting in January, 2002, all checked luggage was to be put through special explosives-detecting machines. In addition, the Aviation and Transportation Security Act increased the number of armed federal air marshals flying on domestic flights and required international airlines to turn over advance copies of their passenger lists to United States Customs officials for background checks to weed out suspected terrorists.

In addition to the enhanced security measures enacted by the Aviation and Transportation Security Act since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, support has increased for the development and use of technology known as biometrics. Biometrics refers to the process of identifying people through physical characteristics. Examples of biometrics include DNA, fingerprints, and the iris and retina of the eye. Focusing on features like the angle of the cheekbones, bridge of the nose, and the size of the mouth, computer technology scans faces in crowds, identifies 80 so-called landmarks on the face and creates face prints that are compared to a database of suspected terrorists. If the technology recognizes a face, a silent alarm notifies airport personnel to approach the passenger for questioning.

While airport security policies have vastly improved since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, there is still no guarantee that the nation will be eternally free from such violent attacks. In addition, there are rising concerns about whether the imposition of such rigid airport security policies violates individuals' privacy rights. Although emergencies such as the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks result in prompt action, emergencies have also always been a time when the niceties of law have been most vulnerable to the demands of national security or national hysteria. The most vivid example of this was during World War II, when Japanese-Americans were rounded up like cattle and detained in internment camps. Likewise, after the Oklahoma City bombing, the Immigration and Naturalization Service was authorized to establish a new court to consider the deportation of suspected alien terrorists, in which cases would be heard without the usual obligation to inform the accused of the evidence against them. Unfortunately, history repeated itself after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks when unprecedented numbers of Middle Easterners were detained and questioned.

IV. CONGRESS' AND INTEREST GROUPS' POSITIONS ON AIRPORT

SECURITY POLICIES

Although Democrats and Republicans ordinarily sit on different ends of the political spectrum, the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks have resulted in a fairly unified call for and rise to action. The relatively quick creation and passage of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act by both the Congress and the Senate is an example of the temporary setting aside of ideological differences that arose following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. One issue which has created some divisions among Democrats and Republicans is biometrics, the use of technology involving facial recognition, fingerprinting, retinal scans and the like. At the core of the debate is whether the rewards of using such technology (i.e., added tools in the war against terrorism, increased identification mechanisms, etc.) outweigh the drawbacks (i.e., loss of civil liberties as a result of individuals' privacy being invaded). In addition, the proposal for a national identification which was being thrown around briefly caused friction among Democrats and Republicans, the main dispute being whether implementing such a technology would lead to the further descent into the "Big Brother" society envisioned by George Orwell in his landmark novel "1984."

V. CONCLUSION

Few events in life have the potential to impact each and every single member of society, whether it is on a macro (indirect) or micro (direct) level. Even fewer such events actually do impact every single citizen. Like the Columbine school shootings, the Kent State university shootings, the Oklahoma city bombings, Pearl Harbor, and Vietnam, the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks will be forever embedded into the psyche of millions of Americans. In addition to the sheer magnitude of innocent human lives lost as a result of the despicable conduct of terrorists, what makes the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks so unbearable is the fact that it exposed major holes in our nation's airport security policies.

Despite the unimaginable horror of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, one of the positive outcomes of these attacks were the many security changes have occurred throughout the world and more noticeably in the United States. One of the most significant changes was to…

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