Transcript

Governor Pataki Holds a News Conference on New Airline Security Procedures

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Thursday, August 10, 2006; 4:27 PM

AUGUST 10, 2006

SPEAKER: GOVERNOR GEORGE PATAKI (R-NY)

[*]

PATAKI: Good afternoon. And let me thank you for being here with us.

Let me first recognize some of the people who are here. Ken Ringler is the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey that runs the airports at Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark.

Bill Hall's the New York director of the TSA. And, Bill, thank you for being here.

Jim McMahon is the director of homeland security.

General Joseph Taluto is the director of our National Guard.

And we have Inspector Kazamatis (ph), who's the head of the Port Authority Police here.

Today's incidents point out what I think most of us already knew, which is that we have got to have an ongoing commitment to protect the freedoms and the people of this country because we are in an ongoing war against those who want to attack us again.

As we approach the fifth anniversary of September 11th, too often people think that it's something in the past. But today reminds us that it's not just the past; we have to be vigilant today and we have to be vigilant tomorrow.

In response to the federal government's raising the alert levels to Red for flights coming from England and for Orange for all flights in the country, we obviously have significantly increased the security here at airports in New York.

We have increased the Port Authority Police presence and activities. We have expanded undercover patrolling as well. And we have also increased the number of National Guard involved in protecting transit facilities, including the airports in New York.

Those of you from New York know that we already are and were at Level Orange. We have stayed at that level since September 11th and we have hundreds of National Guard troops deployed every day on an ongoing basis at transportation facilities across this state.

So when this notification came early this morning, we were able to both increase that National Guard presence and shift a greater presence to the airports here, where they will continue to work with the Port Authority Police Department, the TSA and other security officials.

I want to give the public a little bit of an update as to my understanding of where we are from an operational standpoint. At this point at both Kennedy and LaGuardia, we do not experience delays of greater than 30 to 40 minutes in getting through the screening gates that are obviously at a heightened level of activity and alert today.

PATAKI: At Newark, there have been some delays of up to an hour. But we are concerned that, as we hit the evening rush hour and the peak time for flights as well, that those delays could get a bit longer. So we're asking people to do a number of things.

First of all, check with your airline. Some flights have been canceled. Others have been delayed. So before you come here, check with the airline and make sure the flight hasn't been canceled and that it is scheduled to leave at the scheduled time.

Second, obviously, is to listen to the directive of TSA and everyone that you cannot bring liquids or gels in hand-held baggage. It saves an enormous amount of time if you dispose of them or put them in check-in baggage before you get anywhere near the security screening gates.

And as an aside, we have seen a dramatic increase in the pickup of refuse that's included those gels and liquids, because people have gotten the message. And that's one of the reasons why the delays have not been longer, although they were longer early this morning.

And finally, try to arrive two hours early, because while at this current moment the delays here are probably not longer than a half- hour, no one can guarantee that if there is a particular problem going through baggage that might have to be searched more thoroughly, and with the increasing flights in the evening hours, that those delays could get longer.

But the point that I would like to make out of this is that the efforts to protect the American people worked exactly as they are supposed to work. Domestically, we had tremendous cooperation, communication and the sharing of information from federal officials. We have worked with local officials.

And whether it's the federal government, the state government, the local government, the regional governments, like the Port Authority or the county government, the information sharing, the coordination and the cooperation has been extraordinary, and that is why we have been able to deal with this heightened level of alert with the minimum possible dislocation in people's activities other than the fact that you cannot carry these items onto the planes anymore.

Second of all, it showed the importance of intelligence and international cooperation for the second time in just a few months. This time, it was Great Britain, it was England that caught those who were looking to use these weapons in those planes. And just a few months ago, it was when there was earlier-stage planning against the tubes under the Hudson River, it was other foreign governments, in that case Lebanon, where those who had been plotting those attacks had been doing that planning.

So it points out the importance and so far the success of that international intelligence operation.

We will continue at this heightened level of alert as long as the TSA and the federal officials and the Department of Homeland Security deem it appropriate.

But as I said, even when the time comes when the rest of the country will take down that orange level of alert, we will continue to have hundreds of National Guard deployed along with state police, working with Port Authority police, New York City police and the local officials across the state because we know New York has been attacked and continues to be a symbol of the greatness of our country.

PATAKI: With that, I know there are some media questions. I just want to make one other point, having spoken again with Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff: There was no target in the United States. New York City was not a target. Miami was not a target. Washington was not a target. Los Angeles was not a target.

This was not an attempt, to the best of the knowledge that I've gotten from all of our Homeland Security officials to use aircraft as weapons against any particular site in the United States. It was aimed at destroying those aircraft themselves.

So that while we are at this heightened level of alert, as you've seen, it has been focused on aviation, although in New York state, as I said, we are at a heightened level of orange alert and will continue to increase our security efforts as the information warrants.

At this point, I'd be happy to answer any questions anyone might have.

QUESTION: Governor, how do you reinforce the feeling of safety among New Yorkers?

PATAKI: First, I think New Yorkers should feel safe, because we are approaching the five-year anniversary and we have the finest law enforcement in the world here, between the city and the state and our Port Authority police.

And they, not just today, but yesterday and since September 11th, every day have proactive in looking to do whatever is necessary to protect the people of this great city and state.

Beyond that, you will see a more visible presence. You will see National Guard troops. You will see more Port Authority police officers. Not just here at the airports, but in other areas as well. And that is aimed both at protecting critical infrastructure sites and at letting the public know that we are out there working to protect them.

No one can say with 100 percent certainty there will never be another attack. But we can say we're doing whatever we deem reasonable to try to protect people.

And I do want to make one other point: Not only should people come to the airport, take their flight, go on their vacation, take their kids back to school, whatever they were planning to do, but it's important to do that, because those who want to attack us want us to live in fear.

And the security experts are the best in the world. They are doing everything in their power to protect us so that the people can go about their lives without fear.

QUESTION: Are the new rules about liquids and gels going to be permanent?

PATAKI: That's a decision that the federal Department of Homeland Security will make. But obviously, to the extent you can simplify what you carry on, on an ongoing basis, it makes it far easier at the gates for the screening to go forward.

And while we don't know how long this particular level of alert will last, I think the recommendation that you try to put everything that you possibly can in the checked baggage as opposed to carrying it on, as a general rule just would simplify security measures and ease transit through airports enormously.

QUESTION: Governor, I talked to a lot of travelers today, saying I am confident in the security's taking care of it. I'm happy to comply with whatever thing. But it seems like they're getting us riled up. Damn it. I think people are talking about, I'd rather not even know. Why can't they just investigate and let them take care of it...

PATAKI: That's a determination that's made by the Department of Homeland Security. And it's a balancing act. On the one hand, you want people to have confidence that they can go about their lives and get on a plane and take their vacation or take their kid back to school without any worries.

On the other hand, you also don't want to deprive information from the American people.

PATAKI: So it's a balancing act that the federal officials have to do. And they made the determination -- and I think it's an appropriate on in this case -- to let the American people know the reason why there is this heightened level of security.

QUESTION: Specifically with regard to the National Guard, is it LaGuardia or just Kennedy International Airport?

And you said hundreds.

PATAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Can you give us more of a breakdown in terms of what the numbers have increased or how they're...

PATAKI: Well, it is in the hundreds. And given the -- I don't want to get more specific than that. We never do.

And given the nature of the terror alert, there are more, now, at Kennedy and LaGuardia.

In New York state, across the state, we have -- I think it's 24 TSA monitored airports, from Buffalo and Niagara Falls out to Long Island.

And we -- I think it was three o'clock this morning, when we notified all the local law enforcement officials of the nature of this threat and are working with them to provide any additional support.

At this point, we haven't gotten requests for National Guard help or other help from any of the other regions of the state. But we're prepared to do it if they do have requests.

QUESTION: Governor, I'd like for you to respond in Spanish, if you will.

QUESTION: (SPEAKING IN SPANISH)

PATAKI: I will try.

(LAUGHTER)

Let me try.

PATAKI: (SPEAKING IN SPANISH)

QUESTION: Thank you very much, sir.

PATAKI: Well, thank you. I hope it made some sense.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

PATAKI: Well, thank you. That's nice to hear.

QUESTION: Do you have any updates on the numbers of flights (OFF-MIKE)?

PATAKI: There haven't been that many flights canceled at this point. Correct me if I'm wrong, Ken, but there...

KEN RINGLER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PORT AUTHORITY OF N.Y.: There have been delays.

PATAKI: There have been delays. There have been some significant delays, not that many cancellations. But still, before you come to the airport, you should give your carrier a call to see that, if there is a significant delay that they can advise you of or if it has been canceled.

Ken, do you have anything other thing there?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) less than a dozen flights or less than 30 flights? Or, you know, anything that we can...

(CROSSTALK)

PATAKI: So far the only actual cancellations have been two flights to the U.K. None of the other flights have been canceled. There have been some significant delays.

QUESTION: Was that incoming?

PATAKI: Incoming?

(UNKNOWN): No, that was outgoing.

PATAKI: Yes, those were outgoing.

(UNKNOWN): That was an American flight that came in...

(UNKNOWN): Incoming flights have been canceled.

PATAKI: Yes, a number of incoming flights have been canceled.

(CROSSTALK)

PATAKI: And that's a very good point. If you're coming to meet someone, call the airliner as well, because there have been significantly more incoming flights that have been canceled.

OK. If not, let me just thank all of you for being here. And in particular, as always, we just are extremely blessed to have our National Guard volunteers. These are true citizens soldiers, volunteers who don't do this for a living who, whenever the cause is necessary, put on the uniform and take the measures to protect us.

And I just -- General Taluto, to you and to the men and women of the New York National Guard, we're proud of you. God bless you. Thank you for again answering the call.

Thank you all very much.

END

.ETX

Aug 10, 2006 15:50 ET .EOF

Source: CQ Transcriptions © 2006, Congressional Quarterly Inc., All Rights Reserved


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