Missile sting revives Senate anti-terror bill

Missile sting revives Senate anti-terror bill

WASHINGTON - The arrest of a British citizen who allegedly tried to buy a shoulder-mounted missile to shoot down U.S. commercial aircraft is breathing new life into a Senate bill that specifically addresses this threat.

Sens. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. and Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. introduced the bill, the Commercial Airline Missile Defense Act (S.311) in February. It requires the federal government to ensure that countermeasures against shoulder-fired missiles be placed on commercial jet aircraft beginning in December. It would require the Coast Guard and National Guard to patrol airport perimeters in the interim.

The two introduced the bill in Nov. 2002 after intelligence reports suggested al Qaeda terrorists attempted to shoot down an Israeli passenger jet as it took off from Mombasa, Kenya.

Boxer said she sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge on Aug. 13, urging him to support the bill.

Last month, the Senate approved the 2004 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill, which included $60 million in funding for the research and development of anti-missile technology for commercial aircraft. The technology is already available for military aircraft, and this funding would be to accelerate the transfer of the technology to commercial use.

Boxer said shoulder-fired missiles can easily be concealed, transported, and fired at commercial aircraft. They have a range of 12,000 feet, well within the flight paths of the thousands of planes which fly in and out of airports. It is estimated that thousands of these weapons are available on the black market, and many are already in the hands of terrorists around the world.