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Tightening Up on Security

According to the U.S. State Department’s grim accounting, nearly 40% of all terrorist attacks around the world are directed at Americans. There is no reason to think that this threat will soon subside, which is all the more reason for the United States to look more closely to its defenses. President Reagan, in response to the seizure of TWA Flight 847 by Lebanese terrorists, has outlined some measures that could be taken. Those things and more ought to be done, and quickly.

The program to improve security at embassies and other U.S. facilities overseas is lagging. Given the threat that exists and the stakes that are involved, this program demands the highest priority. Similarly, measures to improve security for Americans traveling abroad can be bolstered. By all means let armed sky marshals be put aboard all international flights by U.S. air carriers.

Americans have already been warned that Athens airport is a dangerous place because of lax security. Until that security is effectively tightened, Athens should be boycotted by Americans. Pan American World Airways has already announced a suspension of its flights to Greece. The same policy ought to apply to any other international airport where security is inadequate. The airlines of these countries should be denied American landing rights. So should the planes of countries that fail to live up to international air-safety agreements, or that refuse to condemn air terrorism.

Greater resources must be devoted to the gathering of intelligence in countries that support or harbor terrorists. It is no secret that Syria, Libya, Iran and now Lebanon are among the focal points for anti-American terrorism. Good intelligence about terrorist plans and operations is not easily come by in any of these places. That’s all the more reason to try harder to find out what this country’s enemies are up to. The threat presented by those enemies is going to be with us for a long time. We have to live with that threat, just as we must do everything possible to fight it. So far, it has been a humiliatingly unequal battle.

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