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Security change at US airports

world Updated: Feb 19, 2010 00:57 IST
Spencer S. Hsu
Spencer S. Hsu
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

The Transportation Security Administration will begin randomly swabbing US air travellers’ hands and baggage for explosives at airport checkpoints and boarding areas starting Thursday, the latest increase in aviation security measures following a failed bombing attempt of a jetliner on Christmas, the agency announced.

The expanded use of explosives-trace-detection machines was tried at five airports for 17 days after the failed Al-Qaeda attack on Northwest Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit, TSA spokeswoman Kristin Lee said. In that incident, Nigerian suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab allegedly failed to detonate explosives hidden in his underwear.

Passengers should notice expanded random checks at 450 airports nationwide that will be phased in over a period of weeks starting Thursday, Lee said.

“TSA is increasing the use of this technology on a random basis on passengers’ hands and also at areas throughout the airport,” Lee said, “Passengers can encounter this additional security measure not only at security checkpoints, but in the checkpoint line as well as in boarding or gate areas.”

Airport screeners have generally reserved explosives checks for “secondary screening,” or passengers selected aside for added scrutiny. But the Abdulmutallab case exposed gaps in the government’s ability to identify individuals who pose a threat.

The Nigerian man was not flagged for additional checks, so he walked through a routine metal detector at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport — one of the most secure in the world — without raising an alarm.

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