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Better Security Against Attacks at Our Airports

July 10, 2002

Re "Airport Security Stakes Rising," July 7: As a traveler and investor in the Philippines (until my wife and I were kidnapped there in September 1997), I was always amazed at the rigorous security measures imposed at Ninoy Aquino International Airport, while security at Los Angeles International Airport--a much more inviting target--was so, well, "lax."

To leave NAIA, you had to pass through at least eight, and sometimes nine, checkpoints with a combination of armed guards and security personnel X-raying and opening your bags, patting you down and keeping an eye on people who acted suspiciously. There were no "bon voyage" visitors allowed in the terminals; only ticketed passengers were allowed beyond the street entrance.

These measures were initiated by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, which told Philippine Airlines officials that if they wanted landing privileges in the U.S. they had to get serious about security.

Although at first it was quite annoying and degrading, it turns out that Ramzi Yousef and his fellow terrorists were planning on blowing up as many as a dozen Manila-based international flights over the Pacific Ocean. So while the heightened security was aggravating, it clearly had a deterrent effect.

Today, millions of passengers depart from NAIA each year, and I haven't read or heard about any terrorist incident there in the last seven years. Perhaps if we'd adopted our own security measures we wouldn't have had a tragedy at El Al last Thursday.

Stephen P. Watkins

Los Angeles

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The two recent murders at LAX would have been many more in number had not an armed El Al employee acted quickly. The Egyptian immigrant Hesham Mohamed Hadayet was equipped with much ammunition to load and reload his weapon.

We would all be much safer if there were more responsible and trained private citizens carrying concealed arms. (Airline pilots are one group that should always be armed.) Of course, this flies in the face of the hysterical anti-gun nuts who have been shrieking in our faces for decades. They are wrong and they need to be shouted down.

John K. Carter

Camarillo

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In the aftermath of the Fourth of July attack on El Al's LAX ticket counter, if the FBI can't recognize a terrorist attack even after it has happened, how can we trust it to recognize terrorist attacks that are still only in the planning stages?

Lorin Fife

Valley Village

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Airport security has improved over the last year, with a generally acceptable amount of inconvenience. We still have things we can do better.

When I pick up arriving passengers at the airport, it is no longer practical to leave my car in short-term parking because of the added security checks. Rather, I typically drive slowly around until I see my friends at the curb. When I stop at the curb, I expect constant police reminders making sure I don't park in the loading zone or leave my vehicle unattended.

A great improvement would be a scoreboard-type display of the status of arriving flights, visible to drivers. Airline schedules are less than perfect, and it would be nice to know when a flight has been delayed or when it has been on the ground long enough for all passengers to have claimed their bags.

Bruce Borden

Tustin

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