The new U.S. secretary of Homeland Security thinks that officials need to continue working together along with using cutting-edge technology to improve security at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
The new secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, toured LAX Thursday, June 2nd, as part of a series of visits, including the Port of Los Angeles, to discuss and examine security issues in southern California.
Chertoff became Homeland Security secretary in February, succeeding Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge.
Chertoff toured LAX with local Congresswomen Jane Harman and Maxine Waters, Los Angeles mayor-elect Antonio Villaraigosa and Los Angeles City Council 11th District councilman-elect Bill Rosendahl.
Chertoff joined Harman and Waters at a midday press conference atop Parking Structure 7 in the central terminal area of LAX, to comment on airport security issues and take questions.
When asked whether he thinks airport passengers should feel comfortable traveling, Chertoff replied, “We have a very safe airport transportation system.”
“We can continue to refine it, not only to make it safer, but to make it easier and more convenient,” he added.
Harman said the issue of security at LAX remains a top priority for local government officials because the airport remains a “top terrorist target.”
“The question is, ‘Are we doing enough to stop the next terrorist attack?'” Harman said to the audience. “The answer is no.”
“Much more needs to be done with respect to technology and the integration of databases,” the congresswoman said.
Harman said Chertoff is a “strategic thinker who is determined to get the strategies right” regarding airport security. The goal of government officials is to provide LAX employees with “the tools to do their jobs” in securing the airport, she said.
“It’s very exciting to think that the neighbors of this airport will be a lot safer soon because of the strategic approach taken by the department of homeland security,” the congresswoman said.
Chertoff also acknowledged that LAX remains a target for terrorists, referring to a terrorist plot known as the “millenium plot” five years ago in which a man allegedly tried to drive a truck of explosives to LAX but was caught at the Canadian border trying to enter the U.S.
After touring the airport June 2nd, Chertoff said he was able to see the ways many members of the airport community are working together to secure the airport.
In order to continue improving airport security, officials “need to build on their assets” and use advanced technology, he said.
“Technology does not do the job on its own,” he said. “We need people who are intuitive, dedicated and imaginative.
“We need to have smart people coupled with cutting-edge technology.”
Some advances in security technology that are planned for the airport include trace detection technology to detect explosive materials and biometrics, he said.
Biometric identification may be used through an airport pilot program in which passengers would have identification cards with fingerprints or iris scans in order to move quicker through security checkpoints, he said.
Harman said that she met with Villaraigosa to discuss security recommendations for LAX made by the RAND Corporation.
Villaraigosa, who will become mayor Friday, July 1st, said he will evaluate the RAND recommendations to see which ones should be implemented.