Napolitano's Future: Airline Passengers Can Keep Shoes On
Homeland Security secretary says airports could ditch shoes-off policy.
Sept. 6, 2011 — -- Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano sees the future of American air travel and it is full of passengers who are allowed to keep their shoes on through security.
"We are moving towards an intelligence and risk-based approach to how we screen," Napolitano said today, according to POLITICO, at an event sponsored by the news organization. "I think one of the first things you will see over time is the ability to keep your shoes on. One of the last things you will [see] is the reduction or limitation on liquids."
Airports began demanding passengers remove their shoes for a separate scan after convicted terrorist Richard Reid unsuccessfully attempted to set off explosives hidden in his shoes during a transatlantic flight in December 2001.
"[T]he threat posed by shoe bombs didn't end with the so-called shoe bomber," the Transportation Security Administration says on its website. "Government tests have shown how a shoe bomb could easily slice through metal and potentially take down a plane."
Napolitano said "new technology" was the solution to the current "inconveniences" of air travel security -- such as shoe removal -- but did not elaborate on what that technology was. However, she said that technology does not yet exist that is capable of distinguishing harmless liquids from potential bombs in one, quick scan, meaning it could take much longer to ease the restrictions on liquids, according to the POLITICO report.
Napolitano's comments come less than a week after Germany declared full body imaging systems currently in use in some U.S. airports too unreliable to use in their airports -- partially due to what the German government said was a high frequency of false alarms, including the system's reported inability to distinguish human sweat from potentially deadly chemicals.
As the tenth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks approaches, Napolitano joined the chorus of government officials who said there is so far no "specific or credible information" on an impending attack, but Napolitano warned the symbolic date could be a tempting target for a "lone wolf" actor.
"It's also a possibility that we will have... a lone wolf decide, 'This is a great day to get some attention. I'm going to do something,'" she said.