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EgyptAir Crash Highlights Security Challenges at Airports

Senate Intelligence chairman says it's too early to speculate on causes

Illinois Sen. Richard J. Durbin said that effective airport security measures did not have to involve excessive wait times in security lines. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Illinois Sen. Richard J. Durbin said that effective airport security measures did not have to involve excessive wait times in security lines. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The crash of EgyptAir flight 804 en route from Paris to Cairo, in what could be a terrorist attack, has reinforced the importance of airport security. But lawmakers were quick to say Thursday that security concerns should not lead to longer lines for air travelers.  

Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard M. Burr of North Carolina said Thursday that he was getting hourly updates on the status of the crash search and investigation, but it was “too early to come to any conclusion” or speculate on the causes of this specific incident, even as others floated the possibility of a terrorist attack.  

[Congress Reacts Cautiously to EgyptAir Crash]
House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul of Texas said during an event at George Washington University that the initial reports suggested “an act of terrorism.”  

But Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin of Illinois said there is no reason why effective airport security measures should involve the kind of hours-long lines that travelers have faced in Chicago  recently.  

“The role and the responsibility of the transportation security agency is to make sure that when we travel, and our families travel, we come off those planes just as safely as we went on. It’s an important security responsibility,” Durbin said on the Senate floor Thursday.

More than 450 people missed connecting flights at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on Sunday after spending as long as two hours waiting in security lines, according to news reports. Some ended up sleeping in the terminal.

“Yes, it’s an irritation and a frustration, but we need to do it in this dangerous world to make sure that we stop people from using their carry-on baggage and other sources to cause harm to innocent people,” Durbin said.  

The Illinois Democrat said he would be holding a meeting with TSA administrator Peter Neffenger and other officials Friday at O’Hare.  

“I stand behind TSA and its mission, but what happened in Chicago was unacceptable. This meltdown should have been avoided. There should’ve been better management, more screeners and we should have been ready for this surge of passengers,” Durbin said.  

“I hope that the visit of the TSA administrator tomorrow will be the beginning of a conversation that will not only hope our airports in Chicago, but help the nation.”  

Neffenger was on the Senate side of the Capitol Thursday meeting with members of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, Chairman John Thune confirmed.  

The South Dakota Republican said that whether or not the panel takes additional action would depend on how the TSA responds to the meeting in private.  

[Congress Turns to Airport Security After Brussels Attack]
Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut was among the Commerce members who met with Neffenger.  

“There’s clearly a need to preserve and enhance security at the airports, and also to reduce the lines and delays in security screening,” Blumenthal said, including more screening personnel, dogs and better technology.  

Blumenthal is among the Democrats also pressuring airlines to suspend checked baggage fees to expedite the process of screening carry-on luggage. He said Neffenger expressed support for that move as well.  

Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.
Contact Lesniewski at and follow him on Twitter @nielslesniewski.

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