BERLIN – Germany's parliament passed a measure Friday that will allow the military to shoot down hijacked airliners in German airspace if they are deemed a threat.
With the image of the Sept. 11 devastation still fresh in people's minds, Defense Minister Peter Struck (search) proposed the new measure last January after a mentally disturbed man stole a small plane and circled the skyscrapers of Frankfurt, threatening to crash into them.
The new law allows the defense minister — or, if he is not available, the foreign minister — to decide to have a plane shot down as a last resort.
The legislation provides some room for judgment, saying that shooting down a hijacked airliner "is permissible only after it can be assumed due to the circumstances that the aircraft is to be used against the lives of people and this is the only way to prevent this danger."
During the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, orders were issued for fighter jets to shoot down the hijacked airliners, but the orders were slow to reach pilots and the Federal Aviation Administration (search) as slow to alert the military to the hijackings, according to testimony to the commission investigating the attacks.