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LAX security has improved, Israeli experts report

The consultants find significant progress in antiterrorism efforts.

November 08, 2008|Dan Weikel | Weikel is a Times staff writer.

Israeli officials who have been working with local authorities to improve security at Los Angeles International Airport said Friday that substantial progress has been made to prevent a terrorist attack at LAX, one of the nation's main international gateways.

The three security experts from Ben Gurion International Airport -- regarded as one of the safest in the world -- are part of a cooperative arrangement with LAX to provide consulting services.

The officials -- Hadas Leviatan, Alon Brown and Nahum Liss -- toured LAX last week, reviewed security measures and met with airport authorities. Their visit was a follow-up to a 2006 tour by Ben Gurion security officials who made recommendations for improvements.

Leviatan, Brown, and Liss appeared Friday at a news conference at LAX along with Israeli Consul General Jacob Dayan, airport director Gina Marie Lindsey and Los Angeles City Council members Janice Hahn, Bill Rosendahl and Jack Weiss.

"We went to the best of the best to get the best of advice," Weiss said. "They have seen significant progress in what LAX is doing and what LAX is planning to do."

Ben Gurion, outside Tel Aviv, is considered one of the world's most secure airports, with a security force that relies on police officers and Israeli Defense Force soldiers. Security guards operate both in uniform and undercover to maintain a high level of vigilance. The airport has been the target of several terrorist attacks, but no attempt to hijack a plane departing from Ben Gurion has succeeded.

Los Angeles airport officials credit the Israelis with a number of improvements at LAX, which has been identified as a primary terrorist target. They include surveillance technology, police checkpoints, barriers to prevent vehicles from crashing into terminals, and tighter perimeter controls. In addition, the airport has increased the presence and visibility of its police force.

Israeli security officials first visited LAX in October 2006 to perform an assessment after Weiss visited Ben Gurion airport that year and was impressed with the security.

Weiss said he later broached the idea of a more formal arrangement with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. An agreement was reached with Ben Gurion officials last summer when a city delegation visited Israel.

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dan.weikel@latimes.com

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