More secure airports

FEW PASSENGERS were on hand as reopened yesterday, but evidence of heightened security was everywhere.

Get used to it.

U.S. airport security had become an oxymoron. This was in stark contrast to countries such as Israel, France and Germany, where it was known all along that airport security is a life-and-death matter. Tuesday's tragedy has painfully driven that point home.

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta's announced safety precautions will make airports more intimidating. And that's good. The skies will be safer because law enforcement officers will be more visible. If undercover officers are also on the job, as is expected, passengers will have yet another layer of protection.

Under the new rules, there is no more curbside baggage check-in, no knives are allowed on flights and only ticketed passengers have access to gates. Armed marshals are helping to patrol security checkpoints, adding the professional law enforcement that always should have been there.

Airport officials also promise to crack down on unattended vehicles at the terminal. Yesterday, security officers at BWI appeared to enforce that long-established but loosely imposed policy with vigor.

Airports were the pathways to terror on Tuesday. That should not be allowed to happen ever again. Security checkpoints are the last line of defense against domestic air terrorism. Nothing's more serious.

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