The United States remains at risk from attack even though it may be
better prepared to fight a war on terrorism on the sixth anniversary of the
September 11, 2001 strikes on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon using
hijacked commercial transports.
The warning comes after Al-Queda leader Osama bin Laden vowed to escalate
his 'holy war' against the United States in a new video. "While we have
successfully raised our barrier against terrorist attacks, the fact remains that
we are still a nation at risk," said Michael Chertoff, the head of the
Department of Homeland Security. "We continue to face a persistent threat to our
homeland over the next several years, confronting the terrorist threat xix years
At least 2,749 people were killed when two jetliners slammed into the
World Trade Center and 184 people perished when American Airlines Flight 77 flew
into the Pentagon. The downing of United Airlines Flight 93 in a field took the
lives of 40 passengers and crew.
Much has transpired since Sept. 11, 2001. More armed Air Marshals now fly
on commercial flights and some pilots are packing pistols in cockpits behind
reinforced doors. Federal passenger screeners populate the nation's airport and
the federal government is exploring the means to protect airliners from
shoulder-launched heat seeking missiles.
But additional measures are contemplated, including a proposed regulation
requiring general aviation aircraft entering the United States to provide
comprehensive passenger manifest information to U.S. authorities prior to
departure. "This will help us prevent private aircraft from being used to bring
potentially dangerous people or weapons into the United States," said Chertoff.
The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), Advanced Information on Private
Aircraft Arriving and Departing the United States, released on Sept. 11, will
require more detailed information about arriving and departing private aircraft
and persons onboard.
The NPRM will require pilots of private aircraft to provide to the U.S.
Government complete passenger and crew manifest data and aircraft information to
foster aircraft identification, tracking and communication, one hour prior to
departure to and from the United States, giving Customs agents time to check
names against terrorist watch lists.
DHS is considering a phased approach to implement the proposed security
measures on general aviation. Under Phase I, DHS will publish the NPRM to elicit
public comments prior to issuance of a final rule and implementation of the new
requirements. Under Phase II, DHS will develop methods and processes to address
"additional security vulnerabilities" for international private aircraft
operations at their last point of departure prior to entering U.S. airspace.
The pending rule regarding general aviation is similar to one recently
announced to cover commercial flights. The Bush Administration proposed a new
version of its program to screen airline passengers that avoids privacy concerns
and has finalized a rule that require air carriers operating international
flights to send federal security authorities passenger data before planes take
off rather than afterward, as is now the case. DHS said the measures will
strengthen aviation security through uniform and consistent passenger
Recently published NPRM will require more detailed information about arriving and departing private aircraft and persons onboard.
If the proposed rule is finalized, the agency would ask airlines to provide the manifests an hour before departure time, meaning that passengers would have to show up earlier for flights.
Airlines are warning that airport hassles could get even worse, at least for international travelers.