Airport Security Showdown

Transportation Security Administration employee checking passengers baggage at a security checkpoint, Logan International Airport, Boston, Massachusetts, 8-6-02 AP

Given one year to put federal screeners in place at every U.S. airport, officials are currently busting their buttons at beating the clock. Just 13 employees strong in January, CBS News Correspondent Jim Axelrod reports that today, the Transportation Security Administration has 45,000 employees checking passengers on the way to their gates.

"We are proud we've met so many deadlines but on the other hand we are not resting," says Norman Minetta, the Secretary of Transportation.

They can't rest because another potentially more challenging deadline is just 43 days away.

That is the date when every U.S. airport must be ready to screen all checked baggage for explosives. The TSA says more than 400 of the nation's 429 airports will make it.

But some of the busiest - including Miami, Atlanta, and Dallas Ft. Worth - say they won't. And they want one-year extensions from Congress.

"If it takes us up to a year at a smaller number of airports to get to where we want to be, so be that as well," says Adm. James Loy of the TSA.

The problem? New scanning machines that are the size of minivans. Some airports even require renovations to house them. Locating them in existing check-in space could cause large disruptions.

"In our airport particularly, we are going to lose a large amount of passenger flow area," explains Mark Forare, Assistant Director of Security at Miami Airport.

But not every large airport is asking for more time. Those in New York don't want extensions.

But if the new scanning machines aren't in place, the other option is to check each piece of baggage by hand. But think about it, every bag screened by hand? The delays would be enormous.

"Considering the TSA is doing something new and they will be in the training phase and all of that will quite rightly cause some delay in the processing of the bags initially, I would consider chaos to be an appropriate word," Forare tells Axelrod.

As if there's not enough chaos already heading into the busiest travel season of the year, airport managers now warn of more.
  • Sue Chan

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