Congress Pushes For Action Against Shoulder-Fired Missiles...

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Threat Seen As Immediate...

With the announcement last week that the Israeli government is equipping its commercial aircraft with countermeasure systems to defend against shoulder-fired missiles, pressure is mounting here in the U.S. for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to quickly mandate similar protection for U.S. airliners. U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) wrote to DHS Secretary Tom Ridge on Friday, "In light of Israel's actions and the obvious availability of appropriate technology, I ask that you accelerate the current DHS timetable so that our most vulnerable aircraft are protected by the end of this year." Under the current plan, Boxer said, the DHS would not even make a decision about the matter until 2006. "These weapons, also known as Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADS)," Boxer wrote in a letter to Ridge, "are widely proliferated, relatively easy to use, available on the black market and in the possession of more than two dozen terrorist and non-state groups throughout the world. Al Qaeda is suspected of being behind previous shoulder-fired missile attacks against both commercial and military aircraft." Nearly three dozen handheld missiles have been fired at commercial airlines in other countries over the past 25 years, according to the San Jose Mercury News, and more than 500 people have been killed. Only one airliner was attacked in a non-combat zone, when two missiles missed an Arkia Israeli 767 as it left a Kenyan airport in November 2002.