Sen. Abraham A. Ribicoff (D.Conn.) has introduced a bill designed to discourage airline hijackings.
His approach to the problem is so simple and effective that the average citizen will have to ask, "Why did it take so long for somebody to introduce a bill like this? And now that it's introduced, will it run into the usual red tape on Capitol Hill?"
Ribicoff's counteroffensive against hijackers is based on the proposition that every hijacking has one element in common: The hijacker or hijackers want to escape to a faraway place of safety.
If we can take away the haven of safety that now beckons at the end of the escapade, we can make hijacking a far less attractive venture. Eventually, every hijacked plane must come down somewhere, and if we can eliminate the sanctuaries for such landings we will have eliminated air piracy.
So Ribicoff's bill provides that we cut off all air service to and from countries that give sanctuary to hijackers.Even baggage from a prohibited country would not be permitted to enter the United States until it had been inspected in a neutral country. A plane that make a stop in a prohibited country would not be permitted to enter the United States until it had been thoroughly inspected in a third country.
Legislation of this kind enacted in even one major nation would put great pressure on the countries that have in the past been hijacker havens. If the U.S.S.R., Britain and France were to pass similar legislation, the pressure would be well-nigh irresistible.
The ideal approach to the problem would have been through the United Nations, of course. Unfortunately, the United Nations is long on talk and short on action.
While the U.N. talked and deplored and wrung its hands, one crackpot after another put hundreds of innocent lives into jeopardy, and thereby presented government officials around the world with grim alternatives.
In addition to outrageious sums of money, the hijackers usually demanded sanctuary for themselves and freedom for a gang of fellow terrorists. Some governments actually knuckled under the acceded to these demands, thereby encouraging more terrorists to attempt more hijackings.
If Ribicoff's bill is stuffed into a Senate pigeonhole, I have a feeling that the Air Line Pilots Association will take matters into its own hands. All it would take to remind our legislators that there is pressing need for action would be a brief ALPA strike - but what chaos there would be during that brief shutdown. Can't we, for once, do today's chore today instead of waiting until it should have been finished yesterday?