More Balanced -- But Still Alarming
Brian Williams, Anchor: Good Evening. Last
week, it was a group of pilots. Tonight, it's a newly-disclosed
report from the feds. They both say the same things. This long
after 9/11, that awful day when terrorists used aircraft as
weapons, America still has gaping holes in aviation safety -- even
after billions of dollars have been spent. This new report finds
weaknesses in commercial and private aviation that a terrorist
could exploit. We begin here tonight with NBC's Tom Costello.
Tom Costello, Reporter: At any one time, five-
to eight-thousand planes are flying through the nation's airspace
-- a tempting target, and still attractive to al Qaeda, according
to an FBI-Homeland Security appraisal. While the report contains no
new intelligence, it does note, "Commercial airliners are likely to
remain a target and a platform for terrorists." Admiral David Stone
runs the TSA.
Rear Admiral David Stone
(USN, retired), Director, TSA: Very powerful, I think,
measures are in place to keep us secure. But this report shows that
it's important to keep that sense of urgency.
Costello: Just last week, a scathing security
report card issued by the Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations,
which gave failing grades to screening employees, screening cargo
and missile defense. The government disagrees, but aviation
security analyst Charles Slepian says the grades are accurate.
Charles Slepian, aviation analyst: The
vulnerability is still there and the number one role of
vulnerability is an explosive.
Costello: The new FBI/Homeland Security report
continues to highlight general aviation as a cause of concern --
that terrorists may choose to rent or steal general aviation
aircraft. And the report reiterates what intelligence agencies have
already concluded: That al Qaeda has considered the use of
helicopters either to launch an attack, or to spread biochemical
weapons in the air.
Rep. John Mica (R-FL): There's no question that
they're still assessing our vulnerabilities and would look at the
Costello: General aviation pilots say their
Airport Watch program already has 650,000 pairs of eyes looking for
trouble -- and a Cessna isn't much of a threat.
Phil Boyer, President, AOPA: I'm no more
concerned that a small aircraft would be used any more than a car,
a small pleasure boat or any other form of transportation.
security analyst Slepian says, the size of the aircraft isn't the
Slepian: Two hundred pounds of fertilizer in a
Cessna, flying into a building, gives us an Oklahoma City
Costello: A worst case scenario and a nation on
alert... in the air and on the ground. Tom Costello, NBC News, New