Your World Transcript: Safe in the Skies?

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This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, December 31, 2003, that was edited for clarity.

Watch Your World w/Cavuto weekdays at 4 p.m. and 1 a.m. ET.

BRENDA BUTTNER, GUEST HOST: Next time you step on a plane get ready to be watched like a hawk. If airline pilots and flight attendants (search) get their way, they will be keeping a log of anything a passenger does that catches their eye, like taking pictures on board or asking too many questions.

A waste of time? Billy Vincent thinks so. He is former FAA security chief and CEO of Aerospace Services International. But Mary Schiavo disagrees. She is a former inspector general for the Department of Transportation. Thank you so much for joining us.

So, Mary, the idea is that flight attendants see a lot of strange things. And once you start logging that up it might add up to something that could help us avert a threat?

MARY SCHIAVO, FMR. DOT INSPECTOR GENERAL: Yes, it is possible. And I think probably the most disturbing things coming out of the 9/11 litigation and the discovery involved with that is information about things that were reported beforehand, but nobody really knew what to do with, suspicious behavior, people checking out the cockpits (search), people asking questions, filming, et cetera. But nobody analyzed it and nobody really knew what to do with it and, of course, it fell on deaf ears at the government.

BUTTNER: Well, Billie, what is wrong with that? I mean, the flight attendants are our first line of defense. They see stuff that a lot of people wouldn’t.

BILLY VINCENT, CEO, AEROSPACE SERVICES INTERNATIONAL: Actually, there is nothing wrong with that. And that is not my belief. The quote that you are thinking about was related to something else entirely. No, the flight crews, the cabin crews, flight attendants are quite, quite alert to many of those things. They see and observe strange behavior, as well as routine, normal behavior. And they are in an ideal position to detect or make some of the first detections of something going awry.

BUTTNER: But are you against this law? Do you see it as some invasion of privacy.

VINCENT: No, not at all. I think the flight attendants are an integral part and one of the essential layers of a good security system. And, in fact, I have advocated a full covert CCTV system in all of the passenger cabins for the cockpit crew. I think that is an essential part of the overall security system. The flight attendants are, again, an essential part of that process.

BUTTNER: All right, Mary, let’s get back to you, though. In some ways, it is hard to know if something is just strange, if a passenger is just being a little weird or if in fact they could be a terrorist. Is this going to add up to a lot of innocent people getting maybe knocked off a flight?

SCHIAVO: Yes, it will. And the problem, again, is what you do with this information. What you don’t want to have is flight attendants going through an incredible additional amount of work keeping a log and tabs on people for no reason whatsoever. And what we typically find with any of these kinds of data-gathering exercises with the government -- and we have had these kinds of things ongoing in the federal government since way before 9/11. And the problem is no one is really qualified to analyze them. So people keep logs on everybody else, starting to sound like this old Soviet Union. And very much like the old Soviet Union all this data is collected and we don’t know what to do with it.

So what we need is key things, the flight attendants and the pilots have to be doing something that’s helpful, not just collecting data on people. For example, one of things that was recommended after the Egypt Air tragedy and that is the one we all seem to forget was another terrorist attacks was on-board video in the cockpit, so on the ground we can keep track of what is going on in the cockpit. And with the threats we are facing today of foreign flight crews, there is your solution right there. And that has been a recommendation for almost a decade.

BUTTNER: And is that more important, Billie, than just a log from flight attendants or from the pilots? Don’t they have enough to do as it is already?

VINCENT: Mary has made the correct assessment of the situation. You can do that. You have to deal with the exceptions. And it is interesting, that pre-9/11, a passenger on the flight, one of the American flights from Boston to Los Angeles observed what turned out I believe to be later the hijackers on a subsequent flight and they were doing their surveillance. This passenger allegedly reported that to the FAA. And we still haven’t heard where all of that got lost.

BUTTNER: All right. Well, that is information that we’ll have to be watching and we’ll continue to monitor this debate as well. Thank you so much for joining us.

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