On the Home Front: Postal Fear and Face Scanners

The Sept. 11 terror attacks had a profound impact on the United States, and the effects are still rippling across American society in large and small ways. Here is periodic a wrap-up of some of them.

Postal Union Boss Wants Facilities Closed, Threatens Suit

M I A M I, Oct. 26 —

A Miami postal union official is calling for the closure of postal facilities in Florida, New York, New Jersey and Washington until they can be tested for anthrax contamination and retrofitted with new safety equipment.

Judy Johnson is president of the American Postal Workers' Union Miami local. She says central mail-sorting facilities and postal buildings that service government offices, large businesses, media organizations, wealthy neighborhoods and Jewish communities should be shut down until tested.

The local union says it will file a federal lawsuit Monday, asking a judge to force local postal service officials to discuss the union's concerns and implement new safety procedures. Johnson says one technician from a Miami mail sorting facility has tested positive on an initial test for anthrax exposure, performed by his personal doctor. —The Associated Press

Boston's Airport to Test Face-Scanning Cameras

B O S T O N, Oct. 25 —

Logan Airport, where hijackers boarded the airliners that brought down the World Trade Center, will become one of the first airports in the nation to install controversial face-recognition technology.

Computers will scan the faces of travelers and others who pass through checkpoints, and compare them with the facial features of suspected terrorists in a law enforcement database.

The computers will be installed at two checkpoints within the next 45 days, Massachusetts Port Authority spokesman Jose Juves said today.

The technology is being used at Iceland's Keflavik Airport and Toronto's Pearson Airport, and the San Francisco and Oakland, Calif., airports also plan to install the system, The Boston Globe reported.

At Logan, two rival companies — Viisage Technology Inc. of Littleton and New Jersey-based Visionics Corp. — will install their systems, and they will be tried out for 90 days, Juves said.

The American Civil Liberties Union has opposed the technology, saying it is intrusive and may not even work well under certain conditions, such as dim lighting.

"This is a high-tech Band-Aid that is not going to make us any safer, and will give us a false sense of security," said Barry Steinhardt of the ACLU in New York. —The Associated Press

Trade Center Attack Reveals Drug Ring

N E W Y O R K, Oct. 25, —

Six men alleged to be members of an international drug gang, including a man who refused to leave a house where drugs were stashed as the World Trade Center collapsed two blocks away, were indicted on narcotics charges.

Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said the Israel-based gang mostly sold Ecstasy, a popular club-drug that they imported from Holland, but also trafficked in cocaine, hashish and marijuana.

The six men were variously charged in a 38-count indictment announced Wednesday with sale of a controlled substance, possession of a controlled substance, possession of guns and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Five of the men were arrested Tuesday.

The sixth, Zwi Haim Harris, 30, was found by firefighters in an apartment house two blocks north of the World Trade Center a few hours after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, Morgenthau said.

Firefighters had entered the building to make sure it had been evacuated. They found Harris acting suspiciously and turned him over to police, Morgenthau said.

Harris took police to a seventh-floor apartment where he said he lived, and officers noticed marijuana on a living room table, Morgenthau said.

"Despite the fact that the Trade Center towers were collapsing right across the street, he didn't leave his post," special narcotics prosecutor Bridget Brennan said.

Police later obtained a search warrant and seized more than 3,000 Ecstasy pills, hashish, marijuana, drug paraphernalia and two guns and numerous rounds of ammunition. —The Associated Press

Senator: Protect the Food Supply

W A S H I N G T O N, Oct. 25 —

The government should start preparing for where bioterror might strike next, and that means strengthening the safety of the nation's food supply, Sen. Bill Frist says.

"My responsibility is to prevent the next thing," Frist, a surgeon before he was senator, said Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press.

As such, Frist, R-Tenn., pledged to fight for increased "vigilance in areas that touch our lives" such as protecting food from contamination.

Frist's comments came as the nation's casualty toll reached six cases of confirmed inhalation anthrax, including the deaths of two postal workers in Washington and a tabloid photo editor in Florida. Most apparently are linked to an anthrax-laced letter addressed to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle that passed through mail facilities from Trenton N.J., to Capitol Hill.

In the time since the Daschle letter was discovered, Frist has been a key manager of Capitol Hill's anthrax scare, explaining the public health consequences to worried lawmakers and members of the public.

He has offered a bill with Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., to provide $1.4 billion for bioterrorism preparedness. Most of the funds would help local and state officials upgrade computers, plan for disasters, increase staffing, train workers and improve health laboratories. —The Associated Press