Getting Serious About Security

bob schieffer CBS

For all the hoohaw over who should screen airport luggage, federal law enforcement agents or low-wage civilians, here's the most important provision in the airline security legislation passed Friday:

This new law mandates that within 60 days all baggage that's put on airplanes must be searched by hand or X-rays.

Wait, you say, I thought they did that already. Well, most of us thought that until Congress was told last week that no more than 10 percent of the checked baggage that goes on planes is X-rayed. Various excuses were offered, none worthy of mention.

But it was yet another example of the on-the-cheap attitude toward security that's pervaded the airline industry in recent years.

Well, that will change now. In two months, all the luggage must be examined, if not X-rayed, searched by hand.

What happens until then is unclear. But I hope the administration takes the advice of House Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt, who says National Guardsmen patrolling airports should be put behind the counters now to search the luggage.

Congress finally got serious and passed strong security legislation. Now the administration must get serious, too, and take the temporary steps necessary to make air travel as safe as possible over the next two months.

The cost? I have no idea. But less, I'm sure, than the toll we suffered on September 11.

That's it for us. See you next week.

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