Before he attended a closed-door briefing in March, Rep. John Mica, chairman of the House aviation subcommittee, admits he had doubted whether shoulder-held missiles posed a serious threat to commercial passenger jets. What he heard changed his mind. “When I came out, I was a believer,” says Mica, a Republican from Florida. The missiles and their launchers, which are about the size of a golf bag, are easy to hide and easy to use. And they have proved to be deadly. They were a cause for concern in Congress and among the nation’s federal security agencies before Tuesday’s arrest of a suspected international arms dealer who allegedly thought he was selling one to terrorists to use against a jet in the USA. After two overseas missile attacks against passenger jets last year, FBI and Department of Homeland Security officials visited 82 of the nation’s largest airports this spring to assess how vulnerable they were to an attack with the missiles, which are called Man Portable Air Defense Systems, or MANPADS. As a result, airports in cities including Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago and Washington stepped up security patrols around their perimeters. The Coast Guard began surveillance on shorelines adjacent to airports. Full Story
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