Janet Napolitano Urges "Next Stage" of Airport Screening

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 15, 2009
AP Photo/Gerald Herbert
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano
AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will urge 90 nations to heighten their aviation security measures today to include screening devices that could prevent terrorist from bringing plastic- or powder-based explosives onto the plane, according to USA Today.

Citing the inability of metal detectors to recognize unconventional explosives, Napolitano will emphasize the need to use advanced innovations such as body scanners to step up security processes at a Montreal meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

"We need to move to the next stage of screening," Napolitano told USA Today, adding that terrorists "have kind of figured out the magnetometer business."

ICAO Secretary General Raymond Benjamin told the newspaper that his organization - a United Nations arm responsible for determining international aviation standards - considered the matter "of the utmost significance."

The hope is that improved security measures would prevent scenarios such as the December 2009 incident in which suspected terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab smuggled powder explosives aboard an international flight by hiding them in his underwear.

Similar attempts have been made repeatedly with plastic: In 2004, Chechen rebels blew up two commercial airlines using explosives made of the material, and in 2001, al-Qaeda member Richard Reid ignited plastic explosives he had hidden in his shoes aboard a flight from Paris to Miami, though fellow passengers were successful in stopping him.

Benjamin said that under the terms of the ICAO's heightened measures, airline passengers will be patted down or checked with a body scanner for non-metallic weapons.

Lucy Madison
Lucy Madison is a political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of her posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.