Government to Step Up Patrols in Airports
WASHINGTON – More armed law enforcement officers will patrol the public areas of airports, the recently formed Transportation Security Administration said Saturday.
The move comes after Thursday's deadly shooting at Los Angeles International Airport where Egyptian-born Hesham Mohamed Hadayet shot two people to death at the El Al ticket counter before he was killed by an airline security guard.
El Al, Israel's national airline is known for its tight security. It is the only airline that requires their security guards to be armed.
TSA spokesperson Gregory Warren said that the announcement on Saturday had nothing to do with Thursday's shooting.
"We will eventually have federal law enforcement officers at airports, something we have been saying," Warren said.
The TSA's announcement acknowledged the airline guard's role in ending the attack, saying that if "this event occurred at another airline counter without armed security guards, the situation unfortunately would have been worse."
Both uniformed guards and undercover agents are to be added under the TSA's plan, the Associated Press reported.
The TSA was created to take over passenger screening duties from private security companies and has a Nov. 19 deadline for replacing all airport screeners with federal employees. Those employees are charged with operating metal detectors and searching luggage to prevent passengers from carrying weapons into planes.
That screening takes place before the airport's terminals. Thursday's shooting took place at a ticket counter— a public area before the screening. Airlines are responsible for security in these areas.
"Our responsibility for aviation security extends from the perimeter of the airport ... to the successful conclusion of each and every flight," the TSA said in its announcement.
Among the roles the new guards will take are looking for suspicious people before incidents occur and "intervening as appropriate" to minimize the possible loss of lives.
El Al security uses a similar process, having at least two workers interview passengers in line with armed guards nearby. The interviewers compare notes before clearing an individual to travel.
Thousands of new employees are needed to implement both the screening and new patrolling plan. According to the Associated Press, the TSA will start patrolling airports with the help of local police working with the agency. The police will then be replaced as employees are available.
"We would certainly support more law enforcement officials in all parts of the airport, but we would expect there would be a tremendous amount of coordination with the multiple police forces that are going to be functioning in this environment," said David Stempler, president of the Air Travelers Association.
Authorities are investigating whether Hadayet met with an Usama bin Laden deputy in the U.S. in 1995 and 1998, according to the London-based Al-Hayat Arabic newspaper.
Mid-afternoon Saturday, a suspicious package caused disruption at the international terminal of the Los Angeles airport. The Tom Bradley international terminal was evacuated for what turned out to be an unattended bag with a glass bottle inside.
Fox News' Amy Kellogg and the Associated Press contributed to this report.