Mr. COHEN. Mr. President, I would like to take this opportunity to talk about the very important issue of terrorism. The world we live in today is a violent one and the ramifications of violence touch us all--no matter where we live.
I am sure we are all familiar with the heinous crime that occurred in the Washington area last week. As Pamela Basu took her daughter to preschool she was held up by two men attempting to steal her car who dragged her over a mile to her death.
Ms. Basu's death is truly a tragedy for her family and for us all. Who does not shudder at the thought that we too could find ourselves the victims of such a horrendous crime.
We have heard a lot about carjackings and all of us fear the armed gunmen who terrorize innocent citizens going about their daily lives. Carjackings solidify the growing fear Americans have of leaving their home because they no longer feel safe anywhere. Carjackings are not a phenomena of the inner city; they happen in the suburbs, once the tranquil refuge free of violence. We are all vulnerable; rich and poor alike.
This kind of terrorism is alarming because it occurs in our neighborhoods at the hands of our neighbors and I do not need to remind anyone that it is on the rise. The statistices are frightening. According to the Washington Post, between January 1 and August 16 this year, 245 carjackings have occurred in the Washington metropolitan area, of which 5 resulted in death. Just this past weekend, five carjackings occurred within a 24-hour period. In New York, over 1,000 cars were carjacked in each of the past 2 years. In Los Angeles, over 4,100 took place in 1990.
This spread of domestic terrorism brings to mind a second point. Carjackings are not the only item on the rise; incidents of international terrorism also rose last year, according to a report released by the Department of State in May. There were 557 incidents in 1991, compared with 456 incidents in 1990. Fortunately, both these numbers are below that of 1988, the year of the Lockerbie incident. The United States has made an effort to increase international cooperation and bring an end to conflicts in volatile areas such as the Middle East.
Indeed, although we have witnessed the end of the cold war and it has been over a year since the return of our troops from the Persian Gulf, we must not forget that the threat of international terrorism still exists. The United Nations sanctions put in place against Libya, as the international community works to obtain the extradition of the two men indicted last year, further illustrate that there are still many unresolved issues. The U.N. Security Council has also accused Libya of failing to cooperate with an investigation into the midair bombing of a French airliner over Niger in 1989. Iran still approves or condones the acts of the Hezbollah.
It was less than 4 years ago that Pan Am flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland. On December 21, 1988, all 259 passengers and 11 persons on the ground were killed when a bomb planted in the cargo hold of the plane exploded. The Federal Aviation Administration deemed this tragedy to have been preventable. Earlier this summer, the families of the victims won $9.23 million in suits against the company for negligence, but they would all give up that settlement for the return of their loved ones. The fact remains that airline security measures, ones not significantly different than those in place today in most airports, failed to detect a bomb in a cassette player radio hidden inside an unaccompanied suitcase.
Some may question whether the bombing was preventable, but it is important that the American public not forget that the real culprits are the terrorists who carried out the bombing with the support of their state sponsors. We should not delude ourselves in thinking that Lockerbie was the last incident of terrorism.
In response to the threat to airline safety, and the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in particular, Congress passed the Aviation Security Improvement Act of 1990. Central to that legislation were provisions requiring the Federal Aviation Administration [FAA] to support the development and deployment of devices that will keep bombs off planes.
The Aviation Security Improvement Act of 1990 mandates the development of FAA-certified explosive detection systems [EDS] at all international airports served by U.S. carriers. Pursuant to section 108(b) of the act, the FAA was required to complete certification and testing procedures of the new EDS by May 16, 1992. The act provides that, before the FAA can require the airlines to purchase and deploy new EDS, the Administrator must certify that the new equipment can detect `the amounts, configurations, and types of explosive material which would be likely to cause catastrophic damage to commercial aircraft.' Section 108(a) of the act further requires that the certification of EDS be `based on the results of tests conducted pursuant to protocols developed in consultation with expert scientists from outside the FAA.' As of September 1992, the FAA has not approved the final version of the test protocols, has not issued new standards, and has not commenced testing of the new technology. Meanwhile, in part because these standards have not yet been approved, the
National Academy of Science has been unable to complete its efforts to approve a protocol for testing such devices.
This failure to meet the deadline established in law is not the result of technological barriers facing scientists or engineers. The FAA's technical and security personnel drafted explosive detection standards months ago. But the draft standards have been languishing in the bureaucracy ever since, undergoing legal and regulatory reviews. Meanwhile, a number of private vendors claim to have developed machines that can safely and efficiently screen passengers and baggage. I have personally met with officials of one firm, Invision Technologies, Inc., and I am sure there are many such firms that have developed new technologies. They are eager to have their machines tested and installed in airports. But these new systems cannot be produced, or even tested at the present time, due to bureaucratic redtape.
Last year, the Governmental Affairs Committee, on which I serve, held a hearing to assess Federal efforts to develop high-technology defenses against terrorist attacks. At that time we discovered that a number of worthwhile research projects were not funded, even though their costs were extremely low.
During the war in the Persian Gulf, we witnessed the dramatically effective use of technology to minimize U.S. casualties and speed the defeat of Sadam Hussein's army. Now we should use America's technological edge to explore new technologies that can defend against a possible increase in terrorist threats in the world.
I have advocated cuts in spending for many programs this year. But as I have said time and time again, budget priorities should not be the victims of cuts that will wind up costing more in the future. One need only look at the unaccountable costs of Pan Am flight 103 to know that we should stand by our commitment to air safety. We need to remain mindful of the events and statistics surrounding the incidents.
The United States has been more effective in countering attacks through international cooperation, yet the measures in place today still might not detect the type of bomb that killed those 270 people in 1988. Just as we must work to combat crimes like the recent carjackings in the United States, it is important that we remain committed to protecting air travel for our citizens both at home and abroad.
But it is imperative that we and the Federal Government, the FAA in particular, move forward as quickly as possible to implement the provisions of the legislation that require us to set forth the kind of standards for the approval of the technologies which are currently available.
We tend to forget about the existence of these terrorists. They are out there. They remain. Any time there is an international crisis we can count on the fact that there will be a rise in terrorist actions directed toward the passengers. And I urge the FAA to move as quickly as possible to implement the legislation that we passed last year.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|