9/11 Commissioners Warned Airplanes Vulnerable to Onboard Explosions

In December 2005, the 10 former commissioners of the 9/11 Commission issued a "dismal" report card on homeland security, including an "F" for failures to improve aviation security.  Commissioner James R. Thompson, the former governor of Illinois, warned in particular of the failure to protect against terrorists smuggling a bomb onboard a plane.   "Most Americans take it for granted that airline security problems have been fixed, or that terrorists will not target our aviation system. Both assumptions are wrong," Thompson said. "The enemy will find and exploit soft spots in our security. Though we have hardened airliners against hijacking, they remain vulnerable to onboard explosions, such as the dual Chechen suicide bombings that brought down two Russian airliners in August 2004," he continued. To secure commercial aviation, the commission recommended screening airline passengers for explosives, inspecting checked baggage and cargo shipped on commercial flights before it is loaded onto airliners and stored beneath airline passengers' feet and requiring the Transportation Security Administration, not the airlines, to pre-screen airline passengers against a consolidated terrorist watch list. "These grades do not reflect the urgency we all felt after Sept. 11, when Congress made airport security a federal responsibility. Four years later such poor progress in this area is hard to believe," Thompson said.

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