The House, spurred by the memory of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, passed legislation to reinforce the fight against airline terrorism with more security, intelligence activities and money.
"This bill is a monumental step forward" in the U.S. fight against terrorism, Rep. James Oberstar, D-Minn, told a nearly vacant House on Monday.But a woman whose 21-year-old son was killed when the PanAm jumbo jet was blown out of the skies over Lockerbie, Scotland, pronounced the legislation little more than "a start" toward ensuring an end to terrorism aboard U.S. airliners.
The bill, passed on a voice vote without dissent, was sent to the Senate, where approval was expected.
The measure is an outgrowth of a presidential commission's findings in May that the Dec. 21, 1988, bombing of Flight 103 "may well have been" prevented, had stricter security precautions been in effect at airports in Frankfurt, West Germany, where the flight originated, and London, where passengers changed to a bigger plane for the trans-Atlantic leg.
All 259 passengers and crew aboard the Boeing 747, many of them students returning home for Christmas, died when about a pound of Semtex plastic explosives hidden in a suitcase detonated. Another 11 people died on the ground.
The House bill adopts many of the commission's recommendations, authorizing $7 million for aviation anti-terrorism measures, seeking public notification of terrorist threats, bolstering anti-terrorism intelligence activities and providing monetary compensation to the victims of terrorism.
It does not authorize the death penalty for those who commit air terrorism, which prompted Rep. Porter Goss, D-Calif., to complain on the House floor that "it's not fair to say this bill does everything it could do" to prevent air terrorism.