Top airline executives met with Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Hanford Dole yesterday to discuss their concerns about Dole's program to strengthen airport and airline security after the recent Trans World Airlines hijacking and several bombings, industry and government sources said.
Although the airlines have said they support increased security measures, industry officials have complained privately that some measures are too sweeping and were adopted by the department and its Federal Aviation Administration without adequate consultation.
The bulk of the security program was outlined by Dole in a speech June 27 at the U.N. International Civil Aviation Organization meeting in Montreal. Since then, FAA specialists and airline security directors have met many times to develop the program.
"All through these discussions there has been some back and forth about whether you're talking about imposing intensive security on selected flights or on every flight," an industry source said. "We think security is enhanced when there is a focus on selection."
On Tuesday, the FAA issued new orders that airlines must incorporate into security programs. Included is a list of international airports at which extra attentiveness is required, either because airport security is lax or the airport is located where terrorists can be expected to operate.
The list is being withheld from the public, but a source familiar with it said "most major international airports are included for one reason or another on the theory that, even with the best security in the world, you never know when or where a terrorist is going to strike."
A senior Transportation Department official said no airport on the list is regarded as presenting a serious enough security risk to warrant a travelers' advisory, such as the State Department has issued for the Athens airport, from which the hijacked TWA flight originated.
FAA security specialists, acting on orders from President Reagan, have been inspecting international airports served by U.S. carriers to supplement information already known and coordinate it with U.S. intelligence estimates on the likelihood of terrorist activity.
Dole's program consists of increased security training for airline employes; an increase in the number of federal sky marshals; elimination of curbside baggage check-in for international flights; a rule that only ticketed passengers can check bags; a 24-hour hold on cargo, freight and mail not X-rayed or physically searched; an increase in physical inspection of carry-on baggage after it has been X-rayed, and designation of an airline employe as security coordinator for every flight.
"If you require a passenger-bag match or physical opening or X-ray of every single piece of luggage, then the airlines care a lot about how many planes they have to do that for, in how many cities and for how long," the senior official said.
The airlines have not complained about cost, according to government sources, although intensive strengthening of security can cost millions of dollars. Concern has been expressed that long security delays will alienate passengers.
The airlines have been particulary concerned about the security coordinator's role and how that person would relate to the pilot in command. "We made it very clear that you can have a security coordinator who is the pilot, the chief flight attendant or whoever the airlines want," the senior official said.
Airline officials attending the meeting included Richard J. Ferris, chairman and chief executive officer of United Airlines; Edwin I. Colodny, chairman and chief executive officer of USAir, and executives from TWA, Pan American World Airways, Delta, Eastern and Midway airlines.
In a related development, two influential Texas congressional Democrats introduced legislation that would give the Federal Bureau of Investigation $22 million more to counter domestic terrorism.
Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Tex.) and House Majority Leader James C. Wright Jr. (D-Tex.) said the FBI's counterterrorism budget has been frozen since last year at just under $40 million and "has not even kept up with inflation."
"It's one thing to declare war verbally on the terrorists," Wright said in a reference to Reagan's denunciations of the TWA hijacking and other terrorist incidents. "It's another thing to supply the ammunition and the army to fight the war."
Bentsen said the United States is fortunate because few terrorist incidents have occurred within its borders but added, "We're an open target . . . ."
He cited as an ominous sign "reports that agents answerable to the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini are hidden in place in the United States, prepared to conduct terrorist actions whenever they receive word from Iran.