Are we at war with terrorism, or aren’t we?

From the way Congress and the Transportation Department are acting, it seems that we are simply saddled with more of the usual when it comes to bureaucratic and political maneuvers.

Shamefully, Senators and Congressmen left The Capitol earlier this month for vacation without even appointing a commander of the Transportation Security Administration! Who ever heard of heading into battle without a general in charge.

Congress, as of today, hasn’t even appropriated enough money for the FAA to buy and install bomb detection machines and the FAA doesn’t even have specifications published for a new generation of the explosive detection systems.

This is pure and simple dereliction of duty.

The military has functioned admirably in Afghanistan and at airports around the country. But our politicians have been asleep at the switch, or at least so embroiled with infighting, that they aren’t doing their jobs.

Congress recessed (who knows why) and only returned to Washington on January 23rd and in the meantime sniped in the news media at the “inadequate airline security.” Political lip service has never helped with any war. This war is no exception.

Officially, we have many problems with the hastily conceived “security program” passed by our government dealing with explosive detection systems:

– We need someone appointed to lead this operation
– We need specifications for the explosive detection systems
– We need more space in many airport to install machines when they arrive
– We need to focus on explosives since hijackings are moot with captains locked away
– We need expedited certification requirements for explosive detection systems

Once we get our act in gear, under wartime footing, this machinery and real targeted security can be in place long before the end-of-the-year scenario mandated by Congress.

Real security takes place on many levels that most passengers never see. The CIA and FBI work tirelessly to head off threats before they can be carried out. Security personnel at airports are involved with maintenance, food service, cleaning services and more. Eventually air marshals will fly undercover for in-flight protection.

With explosive detection systems installed at our airports, even limited systems, we can begin to move forward with relatively transparent security. The most important baggage security checks will be taking place behind the scenes and out of sight of the public.

Passengers can begin to move around the country and internationally with some protection from explosives. We will be in a learn-as-you-go world. No perfect system can be designed before deployment. Once the explosive detection systems are in place they will be constantly improved and their numbers can be expanded.

Let’s face it. Our goal of immediately having every single bag searched is foolish and, as everyone involved in security knows, impossible.

We need to profile. We need to pick and choose what bags to check. Naturally, we will be checking far more than any previous system, however, wasting time feeling up 80-year-old women and men tottering with walkers can end. We won’t be wasting so much time.

The random security approach is ludicrous. It has never worked and never will.

We need to start right now. Congress and the FAA need to get to work and start moving forward with explosive detection systems. They need a loud and clear message to get serious about security before we are faced with another terrorist attack.

A fundraiser for the families of American Airlines and United Airlines crew members killed on four separate flights on Sept. 11 will be held on March 11, 2002, at the Metropolitan Pavilion, 125 West 18th Street.

Sponsor of the fundraiser is Wings Foundation, c/o Nancy Frawley, 405 West 23rd Street, Suite 12G, New York, NY 10011. The founders and staff members of Americans Are United are current crew members of both American and United airlines.

This important event will feature a live auction for an all-inclusive date with an American or United crewmember, as well as another all-inclusive date with a New York City firefighter or police officer.

Admission also includes a four-hour open bar, hors d’oeuvres, and live entertainment. In addition to the live auction, there will also be a silent auction on a variety of items and services including a guitar autographed by Hootie and the Blowfish, baseballs by Joe Torre and a tennis racquet by Andre Agassi.

Where: Metropolitan Pavilion 125 West 18th Street, New York, NY 10011

When: March 11, 2002 6:00 – 10:00 p.m.

Cost: $50 for prepaid tickets/$65 at the door For tickets send a check to Nancy Frawley at the above address. Checks payable to Wings Foundation.

For further information, contact: Merrill Mazuer at (212) 986-1650.