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British airport security lapse exposed

Stephen Beard May 8, 2008
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British airport security lapse exposed

Stephen Beard May 8, 2008
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TEXT OF STORY

Scott Jagow: You remember why liquids were banned from airplanes? Because in August, 2006, British authorities uncovered a plot to blow up jetliners using bombs disguised as soft drinks.
Eight British Muslims are now on trial for that. But in the past 24 hours, it’s come to light there is a gaping loophole in the security policy at British airports. Our correspondent Stephen Beard joins us from London. Stephen, tell us about this.


Stephen Beard: Well, since 2003, anyone working in a restricted zone of a British airport has had to have been checked to see whether they’ve got a criminal record. But only if it’s a U.K. criminal record. It’s emerged that the authorities don’t check for foreign criminal records.

Jagow: Well, That’s not very comforting. How are people reacting to this?

Beard: Well, I mean, it’s caused an absolute furor. The government says it would take too long and be too complicated to check criminal records from abroad. And it points out that all workers going into restricted zones are checked the way passengers are with metal detectors and so on. But security, as they say — this is an absurd loophole. And it does leave passengers using British airports dangerously exposed.

Jagow: Do we know how many people work at British airports from other countries?

Beard: Well, there are around 200,000 workers at British airports, but the government is unable to say how many of them are foreign. But it’s believed there are probably several thousand.

Jagow: Now that this has come to light and a lot of pressure is being put on the British government, is there any movement afoot to change this?

Beard: Not immediately. The British government says there is a transport security review underway at the moment. This was triggered by the discovery of an Al Qaeda sympathizer working in a book shop at Heathrow Airport last December. But that review will not report until late summer, and the government won’t take any action until the report is published.

Jagow: OK. Stephen Beard, our correspondent in London. Thank you.

Beard: OK, Scott.

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