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Airport security repercussions due to the September 11 attacks: Wikis


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After the events of September 11, 2001, questions were raised regarding the effectiveness of security at the time, as all 19 hijackers managed to pass existing checkpoints and board the aircraft. Since the attack, security at many airports worldwide has been escalated, ostensibly to lower the probability of similar events occurring again.


Changes in airport security


Introduction of the TSA

Before September 11, 2001, airport screening was provided by private companies which were contracted with the airline or airport. In November 2001, the Transportation Security Administration was introduced to handle screening at all US airports. They installed bulletproof and locked cockpit doors. Private companies still operate screening, but they must be all TSA approved. Argenbright Security, a company that provided security for Newark and Washington Dulles, had problems before in May 2000, because they hired 1,300 untrained security guards, including several dozen with criminal records , for Philadelphia International Airport[1]. The company, which was on probation at the time of the attack, had its probation extended to October 2005.[2][3]

Restricted items

Box-cutter knives were apparently used in the September 11, 2001 attacks, though such knives are not usually considered weapons. The hijackers were able to carry these type of knives past airport security because at the time, they fit the qualifications to be permitted on U.S. domestic flights: any knife with a blade up to 4 inches long was permitted. Box cutters qualified as "menacing" weapons under Hazardous Materials guidelines, but were also considered "trade tools" by some airlines. The dual status of these blades caused much confusion for screeners. FAA rules placed into effect on September 13, 2001 prohibit any type of knife in secured airport areas and on airplanes. Beginning in 2006, passengers may not carry liquids, gels and aerosols in quantities greater than 3 ounces past security screening, and all bottles must be placed in a clear plastic bag and sent through screening separately.

Improved security on aircraft

Cockpit doors on many aircraft are now strengthened and bulletproof to prevent unauthorized access. Some aircraft are equipped with CCTV cameras, so the pilots can monitor the cabin activity. Pilots also have an option to carry a gun, but must be trained to use it. More air marshals have been placed onto flights to improve security. Passengers cannot carry liquids past security screening checkpoints or onto aircraft, including drinks; all drinks brought onto aircraft must be purchased in the airport after a passenger has gone past security screening.

Improved security screening

The airport checkpoint screening has been significantly tightened since 2001. Many passengers are patted-down and thoroughly checked with a hand-held metal detector. The security personnel are also better trained to perform searches. On September 11, hijackers Khalid al-Mihdhar, Majed Moqed, Nawaf al-Hazmi and Salem al-Hazmi all set off the metal detector alarm. Despite being checked with a hand-held detector, the screener failed to find the items that caused the alarm. They then all boarded the aircraft.[4]

Identification checks

On September 11, some hijackers lacked proper ID, yet they were able to board. All passengers generally must now have valid identification, issued by the government in order to fly, although the ID is only visually checked for validity and the name and details are not validated. Airports may check the ID of any passenger at any time to ensure that the details on the ID match those on the printed boarding pass. Under exceptional circumstances, an individual may fly without a valid ID. If approved for flying without an ID, the individual will be subject to extra screening of their person and their carry-on items. TSA does not have the capability to conduct background checks on passengers at checkpoints. Sensitive areas in airports, including airport ramps and operational spaces, are restricted from the general public. Called a SIDA (Security Identification Display Area) in the US, these spaces require special qualifications to enter.

Criticism of new airport security policies

Many security experts have criticized new airport security policies. Bruce Schneier believes that the attackers were successful not because of any particular security screening failure, but because using box cutters to hijack planes and then flying them into buildings had never been seriously considered before as an attack vector. A similar attack attempted today would surely meet with more resistance, as passengers are now fully aware of the potential.

Another common criticism is that any terrorist prevented from carrying a knife onto an airplane could easily improvise a weapon by, for example, smashing a glass bottle - or just attack with his or her bare hands.

Evidence of this can be seen in the events of September 11, 2001 itself, as the passengers on the fourth plane resisted the hijackers once their friends and family called in to report what had happened with the previous three planes. The only difference between this plane and the others was public awareness. Before September 11, curtains were used to partition the first class cabin from the main cabin. Since the hijackers were all in first class, the main cabin was mostly unaware of what was going on until it was too late. Since then, most airlines have eliminated the curtains, as they pose a security risk and had little other purpose than to symbolically divide the cabins.

  • Shortly after the destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11, a law was passed that banned visitors from passing the security checkout point, where they used to go to the terminals to say goodbye to their friends or wait for their friends to come. This law is still in effect today.


In 2003 John Gilmore sued United Airlines, Southwest Airlines and U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, arguing that requiring passengers to show identification before boarding domestic flights is tantamount to an internal passport, and is unconstitutional.[5][6] Gilmore initially lost the case, known as Gilmore v. Gonzales, and an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied.

See also


  1. ^ Paul Zielbauer with John Sullivan, "AFTER THE ATTACKS: AIRPORT SECURITY; F.A.A. Announces Stricter Rules; Knives No Longer Allowed", eThe New York Times, National Desk Late Edition - Final, Section A, Page 5, Column 1, 2001-09-13, Archived links: [1] and [2]
  2. ^ "Feds: Airport security firm to admit violation", CNN, 2001-10-21
  3. ^ Eric Grasser and David Evans, "Legal case against Argenbright opens a window into systemic shortcomings", Aviation Today
  4. ^ Augusta Chronicle, augusta news, augusta weather, augusta sports, augusta golf, augusta georgia
  5. ^ Julia Scheeres, "Judge to Hear Air ID Challenge", Wired News, 2003-01-18
  6. ^ Ryan Singel, "Flight ID Fight Revived", Wired News, 2004-08-16


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