WASHINGTON -- Persuaded by the airlines that it would be too expensive and time-consuming to inspect every checked bag with the latest equipment to detect explosives, security officials are urging the White House to order that computerized background checks of passengers be used to decide whose bags to search.
This approach would complement the slow, but highly sensitive baggage-inspection equipment that President Clinton has said he will order put in every major airport.
Officials working with the aviation commission established by Clinton after the explosion of TWA Flight 800 say billions of dollars could be saved by limiting the number of bags that need to be screened with the sophisticated equipment, currently not in use.
The federal government might decide to help pay for purchasing the latest equipment. But the major concern of the airlines is that using the equipment on all checked bags might slow passenger traffic and luggage handling at airports to a crawl, at enormous cost in an industry in which time equals money.
A potential weakness is that a person determined to fool this kind of system could do so using false identification.
The aviation commission, headed by Vice President Al Gore, has been ordered to issue a preliminary report this month, and then to continue with an examination of major issues involving security against terrorism, safety from accidents, and the modernization of the air traffic control system.
Pub Date: 9/01/96