CHICAGO – In a letter to TSA Assistant Secretary of U.S. Department of Homeland Security Edmund S. Kip Hawley, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today voiced his opposition to the Transportation Security Administration’s recently reported proposal to lift the ban on certain carry-on items such as scissors, razor blades, ice picks, and some knives.
“The fact that box cutters were used to commandeer airliners in the September 11, 2001 attacks is a dramatic reminder that we need to continue to ban items that can be used as weapons,” wrote the governor in his letter. “Since those bans were imposed in the aftermath of the attacks, travelers have adapted to those measures. Banning such items from being carried onto an airplane has resulted in no significant hardships on passengers. If that ban results in any incremental increase in safety and security on those planes, the tradeoff of lifting this particular ban just does not seem worth the potential risk.”
The Transportation Security Administration proposal would allow scissors, ice picks, razor blades and bows and arrows as carry-ons on flights. The TSA will meet later this month to discuss the plan, which is designed to reduce checkpoint hassles for the nation's 2 million passengers. It comes after TSA's new head, Edmund S. Kip Hawley, called for a broad review in hopes of making airline screening more passenger-friendly.
“I recognize how difficult it must be to try and find the perfect balance between being customer friendly and secure in the post-September 11 environment,” wrote the governor. “However, in the case of sharp items that can and have been used in attacks I would respectfully ask that you not relax the TSA ban on those items. We constantly remind the people of Illinois that we must remain vigilant against the threat of terrorism, and I strongly feel that lifting this ban sends the wrong message.”
Last week, the governor signed House Bill 1559, outlawing the impersonation of a pilot in restricted areas of Illinois airports. The Governor also renewed his call to federal officials to limit the availability of pilots’ uniforms on the Internet.
HB 1559 was prompted by a CLTV investigative report that documented how easy it was for someone to obtain a pilot’s uniform and use it as a disguise to deceive airport security. Reporter Bob Arya found that he was able to purchase a pilot’s uniform off the Internet without any form of official identification, and it arrived at his doorstep less than two days later. Arya’s probe also found that about a third of the time, airline pilot identification is not thoroughly examined at TSA checkpoints, making it likely that someone with a uniform and a fake identification would have access to restricted areas of airports, including airplanes.
In response to the CLTV pilot uniform report, Gov. Blagojevich lobbied the federal government to close the dangerous loophole. The Governor sent letters to the chair and ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee and David Stone, Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
The governor has continued to support initiatives that build on the state’s ongoing homeland security and preparedness efforts.
· Earlier this month, the governor signed legislation that increased security for all municipal utilities in Illinois. The new law outlines specific safeguards that will be adopted by municipal utility facilities, including electric public utilities, restricting access to critical infrastructure.
· Last year, Illinois retained the nation's highest rating ("Green") from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to manage the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) during an act of bio-terrorism or other mass casualty event. Illinois is one of only six states to achieve this preparedness rating.
· In March 2004,Gov. Blagojevich implemented the Illinois-National Electronic Disease Surveillance System (I-NEDSS), a secure, Web-based system for hospitals, doctors and other health care providers to electronically report infectious diseases. The system allows medical professionals and public health officials to effectively respond to public health emergencies immediately. I-NEDSS is part of a nation-wide system linking state and local public health departments with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
· In March 2004, the administration launched a Web-based version of the hospital bypass system that provides the state with up-to-the-minute information from more than 200 hospitals in Illinois on the availability of beds and other critical health care services necessary to guide the response to an act of terrorism or other public health emergencies.
· Under the Blagojevich administration, the Illinois Emergency Medical Response Team (IMERT) has expanded to 12 teams and 900 participants. IMERT responds and assists with emergency medical treatment of mass casualty incidents when activated by the Director of Public Health. Each team consists of a physician, nurse, paramedic and an EMT that volunteer their time. The state continues to recruit more volunteers to participate in this effort.
· The Cities Readiness Initiative (CRI) is a partnership with Chicago, St. Louis and neighboring states, which focuses on conducting readiness exercises between large metropolitan areas and states and how the different entities can work together on preparedness.
· The state created the Illinois Public Health Mutual Aid System (IPHMAS) last year to strengthen the preparedness of the public health system in Illinois. Gov. Blagojevich called on all the local health departments throughout the state to sign on to the project, which provides for the sharing of resources in the event of a bio-terrorist attack or other emergency. All 95 local health departments in the state heeded the governor’s call to action and signed on to participate in the system. The pact provides personnel, equipment, and supplies assistance to a stricken area by local health departments.
· The Chem-Pack project is an initiative geared toward raising preparedness efforts related to responding to chemical or nerve agent terrorist attacks. Illinois distributed the chem-packs last fall to hospitals around the state to protect against a nerve agent attack. The packs contain medicine to treat nerve agent exposure.
· The State Weapons of Mass Destruction (SWMD) Team is a multi-agency effort including the Illinois State Police, Secretary of State Police, Illinois Department of Public Health, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and Illinois Emergency Management Agency. The team is trained to respond to a biological, chemical or radiological agent attack. Specially trained individuals determine what type of agent has been used and how to respond.