dumb redneck seppos - it's getting worse

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    US acts on missile threat

    The United States has sent teams of aviation security officials to cities in Europe, Asia and Iraq to advise on securing airports against terrorists using shoulder-fired missiles.

    US intelligence agencies have warned that they have information suggesting an imminent attack by terrorists using shoulder-launched heat-seeking missiles to shoot down passenger planes.

    Portable missiles can reach altitudes higher than 5,000 metres, making airliners vulnerable up to 50 kilometres from take-off.

    Department of Homeland Security spokesman Brian Roehrkasse has confirmed US experts have been sent to help improve security in Basra and Baghdad in Iraq, as well as in a number of Asian and European airports, which he declined to specify.

    Today's New York Times listed Baghdad and Basra along with Istanbul, Athens and Manila among the inspections.

    Earlier this year a congressional report found the stockpile of portable surface-to-air missiles numbered between 500,000 and 700,000 across the globe.

    "We are going to countries that want to work with us," Mr Roehrkasse said. "They are airports that have US-flagged aircraft flying in and out of them."

    Tightened security

    Efforts to improve defences against portable missile attacks are already underway at US airports, Mr Roehrkasse says.

    The United States has drastically tightened security at domestic airports since the September 11 attacks in 2001.

    Mr Roehrkasse says that while "the US intelligence community does not have any specific intelligence that Al Qaeda intends to use shoulder-launched missiles for a major attack against US commercial aviation", officials feel concerned there is a growing possibility of an attack.

    The best-known portable missiles are the American-made Stinger and the Russian-made SA-7. The Stinger was once widely used by Afghan groups close to Al Qaeda.

    Officials began to focus on the threat from shoulder-mounted missiles last November, when unknown assailants narrowly missed an Israeli charter flight taking off from Mombasa, Kenya.

    In May, another missile missed a US military jet taking off from Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia. Al Qaeda is suspected in both attacks.

    In Iraq last month, a US C-130 military transport plane came under fire from a surface-to-air missile as it landed at Baghdad's airport.

    That attack came as US forces noted an increase in the "sophistication" of guerrilla strikes in Iraq, where dozens of US troops have been killed since May 1, when US President George W Bush declared the end of major combat operations.

    Technology

    US lawmaker John Mica, chairman of the House of Representatives' Aviation Subcommittee, which issued a report on the availability of the missiles, has introduced legislation calling for outfitting all of the nearly 7,000 US commercial aircraft with anti-missile technology. The move would cost up to $2 million per plane.

    Mr Mica advocates fitting aircraft with decoy flares, infra-red jamming devices, or high-powered lasers - all of which could deter an incoming missile.

    A spokesman for the Florida lawmaker said that while Mr Mica welcomed US moves to improve security at foreign airports where American aircraft are likely to land, he is still convinced of the need to equip planes with their own defences.

    Peter DeFazio, a Democrat from Oregon who worked with Mr Mica on the legislation, has welcomed the latest security measures but says he is also convinced that commercial airliners must have their own defence systems.

    "I'm pushing for some technology - that's what I'd like to see," said Mr DeFazio, adding that increasing security around airports can be "very difficult".

    "You're going by heavily populated areas," he said. "There are multiple hiding places for folks ... you're never going to be able to get 100 per cent assurance of security that you're going to be able to prevent the launch of one of these things."
 
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