A young Nepalese man named Subash Gurung is arrested at Chicago’s O’Hare airport trying to board a United Airlines flight to Omaha with numerous knives, a can of mace, and a stun gun.
He is in the US on an expired student visa. He is unemployed at the time of his arrest. Gurung claims that he was in a hurry and was unaware of the knives and other items in his luggage. But CNN reports that Gurung gave as his address an apartment building in Chicago that was also used by one of two terror suspects arrested on September 12, 2001.
This individual, Ayub Ali Khan (whose real name is apparently Syed Gul Mohammad Shah), lived in New Jersey but also used a Chicago address. A CNN government source says “many phone calls were made to and from that apartment, and credit card bills were paid from that address.”
After being released by local police on bond, Gurung will be re-arrested the following day by the FBI for a weapons violation. Despite the apparent link to Ayub Ali Khan, the FBI denies any terror connection: “There is no allegation that this incident involves any suspected terrorist activity.” Gurung will be convicted of a weapons charge in October 2002, and then deported.
As one clear illustration of why the House approach to aviation security is so bad, I want to tell you what happened at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago on Saturday evening.
A gentleman from Nepal came to the airport. His name is Subash Gurung. He bought a ticket to fly from Chicago to Omaha. He went to board a United Airlines flight and went through the
screening station. When he walked through the metal detector, it went off. They searched him and found that he was carrying two knives on his person. They took the knives away, and he left the screening station--after they found him with two knives. He took his bag and went to the gate.
At the gate, United Airlines employees, on a random basis, chose him to look at his bag. When they opened the bag, let me tell you what they found. At the boarding gate, the man who had two knives on his person when he went through the screening vision had in his bag seven other knives, a stun gun, and a can of mace.
This man had gone through security and had been found to be armed with dangerous weapons. His bag had gone through the screening device of the Argenbright firm that is in charge of the security at the airport. All of this was ignored. All of this slipped through. It was only because of that last search at the gate that they found those weapons on this man.
There are those who believe that while looking at this situation we can patch up the security system at American airports. I am not one of them. I don't believe law enforcement should go to the low bidder. I don't think the first line of defense against terrorism should be taken on the cheek. That is
what is happening in the current system.
I might add that Argenbright and other firms have changed some of the ways they are doing business. They used to pay these screeners $6.75 an hour at O'Hare. They have now raised that wage to $10 an hour. That is a substantial increase. But they are still not attracting the people we need to protect us and to protect everyone in America.
I am aware of a news story in Chicago that is going to come out with additional information about the breakdown of the private screening companies in terms of the preparation of their employees since September 11. I know of the story because they came to interview me last week. They told me what they found. It is shocking and it is disgraceful.
To think Members of the House of Representatives want us to take this flawed and failing system and say this is the best we can do in America is just plain wrong. The obvious question is, If there are going to be Federal employees at the airport, who is going to pay for them?
Let me suggest who is going to pay for them. The passengers on the airplanes. I don't think it is unreasonable that we would pay an additional $5 as a security fee for a ticket so that we can have professional law enforcement at an airport not only screening passengers but protecting the perimeter around the airport, making certain that once and for all we put a system in place that we can trust.