Guard's presence increasing at airports

Friday, November 9, 2001

WASHINGTON -- President Bush will announce an expanded role for National Guard troops at airports, possibly stationing them at boarding gates, administration officials said Thursday.

An announcement was expected Friday at a White House ceremony honoring private-sector employers of guardsmen and reservists, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Bush's announcement, ahead of the busy holiday travel season, was intended to increase confidence in air travel while Congress works to finish an airline security bill, one source said. It will take months to put any changes into effect even once a compromise bill passes.

Governors have used guard members at security checkpoints, where passengers and carry-on baggage are screened, as well as for general patrol duty at airports.

One idea under review by the president would have guardsmen monitor passengers who have gone through security and are in the boarding process.

Recent security lapses have shown that current measures are not foolproof: Last week at Chicago's O'Hare Airport, a gate search by airline employees of a passenger who had gone through security found seven knives, a stun gun and tear gas.

The president asked governors in September to station guardsmen for as long as six months at the nation's 420 commercial airports.

In a prime-time address to the nation Thursday, Bush did not give out any details about the plan, but suggested how all Americans could make a difference in the wake of Sept. 11 attacks.

"Many ask what can I do to help in our fight? The simple answer is all of us can become a September 11th volunteer by making a commitment to service in our own communities," Bush said.

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