Family Holidays

Guide to planning seasonal celebrations

Voters' Voices

Jobs, the economy and the 2004 presidential election

Holiday Movie Preview 2004

Multimedia slide show with capsule previews of upcoming films

Standardized Testing 101

A primer for parents

Deadly Weapons in Dangerous Hands

Special report about weapons of mass destruction

Losing Ground

Special report: Wetlands' demise ripples across nation

Iraq: After Saddam

Continuing coverage of the conflict in Iraq

Skies could be safer for $1 billion

Airline security overlooks potentially disastrous loophole

By Greg Barrett

Skies could be safer for $1 billion

By Greg Barrett

Study: Ground zero workers still dealing with demons

By Greg Barrett

Federal aid for 9-11 recovery plentiful, but N.Y. waiting for checks

By John Mahachek


Looking back. Moving ahead.

Two years after terrorist attacks stunned the nation and changed the world, a six-day series by The Journal News considers the impact on the past, the present and the future. (Opens in new window)


Coming later today

From WUSA-TV in Washington, D.C.: Watch streaming video of events commemorating the 9-11 terrorist attacks.


More headlines

(Links open in new windows)

Photo gallery: 9-11 remembered two years later


Tears of 9/11 rush back as children read names


Bush keeps remembrance low-key


Media devote extensive coverage to commemoration ceremonies


Trade Center survivors rebuild lives at their own pace


As tragedy's anniversary nears, 9-11 events begin


Six fronts in the war to fight terror


Closure elusive for families of many 9-11 victims


Interactive documentary: Stories from those left behind


Interactive graphic: 9-11 by the numbers two years later


Emotional impact of 9-11 blunts as world changes

From The Arizona Republic

Why no answers yet? 9-11 widows persist in asking questions

From the Asbury Park (N.J.) Press

Reminders of 9-11 everywhere

From the Asbury Park (N.J.) Press

From gray ash of landfill, families seek proper burial of 9-11 victims

From the (Bridgewater, N.J.) Courier News

9-11 led some to follow dreams

From The (Morris County, N.J.) Daily Record

Memorials offer families quiet place to contemplate

From The (Morris County, N.J.) Daily Record

Extra security alters work force, way we live

From The Indianapolis Star

Experts see gaps in efforts to guard U.S. food supply

From The Des Moines Register

Recalling 'Surreal day on Pennsylvania field'

From the Battle Creek (Mich.) Enquirer

Commentary: Secrecy clouds our liberty

From the Battle Creek (Mich.) Enquirer

Musical Flash montage of 9-11 images

From the Asheville (N.C.) Citizen-Times

9-11 headline put feelings into sharp focus on that awful day

From The Detroit News

Public tragedy, private pain for Delaware family

From The (Wilmington, Del.) News Journal

Kids still remember unforgettable day

From the (East Brunswick, N.J.) Home News Tribune

Baseball takes time out for 9-11


Official list of the victims of the World Trade Center attacks



WASHINGTON —The softest spot in airline security could be strengthened for $1 billion. Millions of packages weighing less than 1 pound are loaded daily into the cargo holds of passenger jets without any check for explosives, even though technology to screen this airmail is available and the Department of Homeland Security is aware of the threat.

But homeland security officials do not deem the risk great enough to warrant additional wholesale purchases of Explosives Detection Systems, or EDS, devices, the mammoth million-dollar X-ray machines being installed at airports nationwide to screen checked luggage.

“There is no single silver bullet with cargo security,” said Suzanne Luber of the Transportation Security Administration, the largest of 22 agencies run by homeland security. “We want to make sure we have the safest cargo program in place - but without wasting taxpayer money.”

TSA believes 99 percent of airmail is “legitimate cargo,” Luber said, and it currently relies on its “known shipper” program to filter out the suspicious 1 percent. The program is based on establishing the trustworthiness of shippers through a track record of safe mailings.

But about 80 percent of airmail falls through an unscreened crack that gives a blind pass to cargo weighing less than a pound.

Most passenger-jet airmail is packaged in crates that can pass as easily as luggage through the EDS machines, said David Pillor of InVision Technologies, the California-based manufacturer that supplies the federal government with the machines. He estimates that 1,000 EDS machines, totaling $1 billion, would cover all 429 commercial airports in the country.

About three-fourths of the airports are so small that one EDS machine would suffice, he said. Larger airports, such as O’Hare in Chicago and Hartsfield in Atlanta, would need about 20 machines.

“We haven’t sorted out all the logistics of screening the cargo, but you could put (EDS devices) in the back of the airfield where the freight forwarding companies deliver the cargo,” Pillor said.

Airmail typically arrives at the airports during the predawn, he said, and could easily be screened before the passenger jets begin pulling back from the gates at midmorning.

“So the bulk of the cargo problem could be eliminated today with current technology,” he said.

But it’s not cheap.

During a May 20 congressional hearing, Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., a member of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, challenged Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge to ask Congress for additional funding. Markey has written legislation that would require the screening of all air cargo loaded onto passenger jets.

“The technology is there that can screen this cargo,” Markey told Ridge, according to hearing transcripts.

“That’s exactly right,” Ridge answered.

“So will you make a recommendation for the funding to screen all cargo going on passenger planes in the United States?” Markey asked.

“If we need additional funding, congressman, to achieve that goal, I’ll be the first one to recommend it,” Ridge said.

No request has been made.

“We are in the midst of a comprehensive cargo study that is looking at a way to pursue new technology,” Luber said this week. “TSA is deeply committed to cargo security and its ultimate goal is to screen 100 percent of suspicious cargo.”

© 2003, Gannett News Service