Security screenings at airports have disrupted sophisticated terrorist plots, but going through the system should get easier for passengers, Rep. Mike Rogers, an Alabama Republican, said in Arlington Heights Monday.
Rogers, chairman of the House subcommittee that oversees travel-related security, answered questions Monday night at a town-hall meeting hosted by Congressman Joe Walsh, a McHenry Republican. Forty people attended at the Elk Grove Township office.
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"We think it should be more risk-based rather than treating everyone like a terrorist," said Rogers. "We don't have the money to pat down everybody."
Making things better for passengers is the new program that gives regular fliers their own faster security lane.
This helps others a little because "they're not standing in front of you any more," said Rogers.
Walsh, who is also on the Homeland Security committee, said the Transportation Security Administration, which provides airport security, is experimenting with new rules for people under age 12 and over age 75. These include going through checks without removing shoes or lighter outerwear.
Rules are changing, Rogers said, so people like Barbara A. Peterson of Palatine (who attended the Monday meeting) will no longer have to throw away her contact lens solution before boarding a plane because it has a little hydrogen peroxide in it.
Better training for TSA employees should make regulations more uniform at airports around the country, he said.
A few people in the audience supported racial profiling, but "civil libertarians" will never allow it, both Walsh and Rogers said. Besides, people who fit a profile could talk someone who does not into carrying explosives onto airplanes, said Rogers.
Rogers said he is calling for:
• Better software and networking of databases to improve cooperation between airport security and local law enforcement, who know "who's misbehaving."
• The ability for people like Art Ellingsen, founder of the Arlington Heights Tea Party, to carry on his implement for splitting pills even though it has a razor blade in it. Ellingsen, also at the meeting, described having to give up his pill splitter in a security line.
"This is one of the things that drives me nuts," said the congressman, adding he believes plane passengers will no longer be completely intimidated by hijackers just because they have a small blade to someone's throat.
• Better checks for small companies that ship items into the United States. Large ones are very security conscious, and if the United States is satisfied that security is good in their factories, officials should not have to open containers.
• Many more cameras in train and bus stations because these are "very, very effective." Agencies like the Chicago Transit Authority have "lots of layers (of security) you don't know about. The threat there is not as great (as airplanes) so far."
• Laws that limit the issues that the TSA union can negotiate as well as more private companies providing security.