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Bush Presses for Federal Standards on Aviation Security - 2001-10-27

President Bush wants to increase aviation security with tougher federal standards for airport baggage inspectors - but Mr. Bush does not want to make those inspectors government employees, because it would make it harder to fire them if they are not doing the job.

The President wants Congress to pass Republican legislation on aviation security that he says gives government the flexibility to assemble "skilled and disciplined" baggage inspectors by keeping those workers private employees. The measure, known as the Young Bill, would allow security managers to more easily fire inspectors who fail to meet new standards.

In his weekly radio address, President Bush said that is a "critical difference" to legislation passed by the Democratic-controlled Senate. "The Senate bill mandates that all passenger and baggage screeners be federal workers in all circumstances," he said. "While that bill is well-intended, the best approach will be one that provides flexibility. The Young Bill allows the use of private contractors operating under tough federal standards on background checks with federal law enforcement at every gate to promote better screening services, and ensure that security managers can move aggressively to discipline or fire employees who fail to live up to the rigorous new standards."

The president called on Congress to move quickly on aviation security as it did this week in passing legislation to fight terrorism. Mr. Bush Friday signed into law new measures allowing authorities to detain suspected terrorists for seven days without charges. It makes search warrants valid across jurisdictions and gives investigators more power to monitor e-mail and cell phone conversations. The new law gives longer prison sentences to people convicted of terrorism and stiffer penalties for those possessing biological weapons.

It increases controls on money laundering and improves information sharing between law-enforcement agencies. "Our enemies operate by highly sophisticated methods and technologies, using the latest means of communication and the new weapon of bioterrorism," said Prsident Bush. "When earlier laws were written, some of these methods did not even exist. The new law recognizes the realities and dangers posed by the modern terrorist. It will help us to prosecute terrorist organizations, and also to detect them before they strike."

Some critics of the new anti-terrorism law say it makes Americans more vulnerable to invasions of privacy. Mr. Bush says the measure reflects what he calls "a firm resolve to uphold and respect" constitutional civil liberties "while dealing swiftly and severely with terrorists."