Airlines Responsible for Ticket-Counter Security

Though the government is paying more attention to screening passengers and luggage, airline ticket counters have little security at most airports.

After Thursday's shooting at the El Al ticket counter at the Los Angeles airport, federal officials are reviewing if security improvements are needed there as well, said federal officials.

Greg Warren, a spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration, said his agency now will turn its attention to areas in front of the security checkpoints that are designed to check passengers going to their boarding areas.

Passengers are not checked for weapons or even closely monitored at most airports when they enter the terminals where ticket counters are located.

The shooting at the Los Angeles International Airport appeared to be "an isolated incident" not at this point believed to be related to terrorism, said FBI agent Richard Garcia. The identity of the gunman was not disclosed.

Whatever the motive, it was the second shooting inside the terminal of a major airport in just over a month.

A man with a shotgun opened fire on May 22 in the terminal of the Louis Armstrong International Airport in New Orleans, killing a woman and wounding another person. He told authorities he fired the gun because he was angry that people had ridiculed the turban he was wearing.

Until Thursday, ticketing areas had not gotten much attention from the Transportation Security Administration, which is trying to meet congressional deadlines for hiring federal screeners and for inspecting all checked bags for explosives.

"We'll continue to work with airport executives and review security procedures to see if something needs to be done," Warren said.

The Los Angeles airport gunman was killed by an El Al security guard, and another El Al guard was injured, authorities said.

Airport officials in several major cities — including Boston, Miami, Chicago and Philadelphia — said that security at their airports were especially tight because of the holidays. But they said no additional actions had been taken because of the Los Angeles shooting.

In a statement, the Transportation Security Administration offered condolences to the victims' families.

"TSA is grateful that there were security people in place to take action, as there are all over our country at our airports," the statement said.

Since Sept. 11, more law enforcement officials have been stationed at airports, as part of an effort to increase airline security after suicide terrorists hijacked four commercial airplanes.

Congress responded to the attacks by requiring that a federal work force screen passengers and their luggage, but the new law left security at ticket counters in the hands of the airlines.

For a time the National Guard was called out to assist at checkpoints, but the guardsmen have been replaced by local police. A Transportation Security Administration police force eventually will take over.