Readers Debate Airport Federalization and Media Misinformation

The fear and paranoia generated by the airline and anthrax attacks on America had readers this week debating the pros and cons of federalizing airport security and whether the anthrax-laced mail is the work of a domestic culprit.

This week's articles dealing with the air and mail attacks on the United States — Mark Fitzgibbon's "Federalization Is Not Security Solution" and Steven Milloy's "Misinformation Is Real Anthrax Danger" — provoked a passionate response.

Here's a sample of this week's mail:

— Funny you should say the anthrax attacks might come locally. It occurred to me just this morning that it might be the work of a conservative force here at home. Look at the targets - ABC, NBC, CBS, all liberally biased. Fox News, which leans conservative, has not been attacked. What better way for a conservative force to attack liberals and have it blamed on Islamic terrorists?

— It is not in Bin Laden's interest to kill off more than a few thousand Americans at a time at this point. His goal is for Muslim supremacy and not for Muslim inhalation. It is fairly clear that if a few hundred thousand Americans are killed at this point, the official reaction will be emotional and vengeful. If his group is the one sending the anthrax to various offices around the country, they are wildly successful. They are bringing the economy to a halt and they are hindering the government. What's more, they are successfully winning through an intense psychological terror campaign.... If it is the Bin Laden group that is sending the anthrax envelopes, they could be indicating to us just how easy it is to get to us and to stop the daily flow of life in our nation. Not a happy thought if you ask me.

— It is almost obvious that the perpetrator sent anthrax to people of left origins...and apparently used the word "Allah" in their letters.  I guess I don't buy it.  Sure, I would like to believe that it is Iraq or Al-Qaeda, but... wouldn't they do a better job? I am guessing this is domestic and those who did it basically piggy-backed on the current terrorism so they could hide.

— It is obvious to me that the airline industries have a lot more going on in the way of deceitful business practices than just neglecting the upkeep, or placement of redundant systems on their antiquated aircraft. They have been ripping us off for a long time. These international companies are not committed to America, and have been bribing the FAA to "look the other way" while they line their pockets with American blood by neglecting to implement common sense material, procedures, and personnel. Mass transit systems across the nation are regulated by governmental agencies, and considering the greedy , callous behavior of our airline executives, the feds should seize control of the airlines... Then, at least, any neglect will most likely be due to a lack of diligence rather than a conscious state of denial spawned by greed.

— You call the reports on anthrax "misinformation". Since you have not the slightest idea who orchestrated these attacks, any attempt by you to steer this blame away from the Islamic terrorists is also misinformation. So what you are really saying is that misinformation is okay as long as it comes from you. Typical liberal mindset.

— Thank goodness someone in the press has called the press on their scare tactics... It's the press headlines that 'sow fear'. The few voices of reason and knowledge get short shrift.

— Not until the anthrax "scare" moves from the lead story to page two will we start to see a decrease in these attacks. What the perpetrators of these attacks want is publicity and to cause public panic. Unfortunately they are getting both.

— Is it not possible that a foreign terrorist group, like Al-Qaeda, with a little training and the right lab equipment could create a batch of anthrax on their own, without state help? The letters were mailed, so it seems, all around the eighteenth, one week after WTC and the Pentagon.  Sure this could be someone home-grown that happened to have a batch of anthrax ready to go at the right opportunity, but that seems more far-fetched than the theory that these were people who had planned well in advance of Sept. 11for a follow-up attack in order to increase the fear and panic and attempts to intimidate the government and the news media.

— For all of the same reasons that the government should not privatize baggage handling, they should not be setting the standards for  baggage handlers. Such standards are a form of Nazism, i.e., granting property rights without the ability to use that property. For 200 hundred years, the U.S. has been the wealthiest and most secure country in the world, because for the most part, private and public have remained separate. It is when these two become mixed that things go astray. And over the past 50 years, they have been mixed in more dangerous doses, with the effect being more dangerous reactions. Let the government again worry only about the strength of the bombs it drops and the airlines can be free to worry about the strength of its cockpit doors. If this is done, we will once again be secure!

— First, airline security should be the responsibility of the airline, not the federal government. However, I believe that the federal government should have oversight and inspection responsibility. This could come under the purview of the Federal Aviation Administration. Every federal agency appears to have a uniformed police force. Does the FAA? If not, they should create one... Second, airport security should be the responsibility of the state, county, or local government where the airport is located. If the airport crosses city lines, then it's a county issue, if it crosses county lines then it's a state issue. Again, however, the "FAA Police" should have inspection and audit responsibilities. Third, no airport should be running its security through the use of private companies. There are just two many ways that the system can be thwarted. By placing the security responsibility under local law enforcement agencies you would find your security personnel better trained and better paid. The profit and loss statement of the employer won't really be an issue. However...perhaps Federal grants and fare "surtaxes" could be used to augment the agency's budget.

— If you want to have private security, fine, just don't let the airlines be in charge of it. Have the appropriate government agency(... as long as it is not the FAA) contract out to private security firms. Each security officer must actually be trained and have qualifications (military and law enforcement experience would be nice) other than being at least 18 and having a driver's license. These firms should also not hire convicted felons, or people with connections to known terrorists.

— Undercover government agents should test these firms by attempting to breach security and provide monthly reports about the results of their attempts. The monthly reports should not only be made public, they should be at least as prominently announced or displayed as sports scores are now. Agencies not meeting the standards are replaced.

— Airlines are private businesses that are already having problems staying afloat financially. I can't see private airline companies being able to spend the money necessary for me to feel that they are getting quality people and doing a quality job of protecting my life while traveling on an airliner. Only the federal government has the kind of big bucks to do the job and do it effectively. There isn't any congressman who will want to see them fail and they will authorize the funds to do the job right. Federal standards and federal wage guidelines for these jobs will not work if the airline cannot afford to spend such funds so it gets back to the federal government. This job is an ideal situation for federal control.