Wednesday, May 04, 2005

GOPer: New terror hijack 'no catastrophe'

NY Daily News
GOPer: New terror hijack 'no catastrophe'


WASHINGTON - A Georgia lawmaker has stunned congressional colleagues - and New Yorkers - with complaints about air security and saying another hijack attack wouldn't be a "catastrophe."

At two hearings of the House Homeland Security Committee last month, GOP Rep. John Linder blasted federal spending that focuses on "looking for toenail clippers and box cutters."

"It is my view that no airplane will ever hit a commercial building - which is the only value [terrorists] have in taking out large numbers of people," he said at an April 27 hearing. He added that "passengers won't allow that to happen."

"And if an airline is blown up in the air, that is a very bad circumstance for 200 or 300 people, but it is not a catastrophe," Linder said. He made similar remarks April 13 to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

But 9/11 relatives such as Carie Lemack, whose mother, Judy Larocque, died on American Airlines Flight 11 when it hit the World Trade Center, blasted the lawmaker's insensitivity.

"It's a catastrophe to me and to everyone who knew and loved her, and to all the families and friends and neighbors who knew everyone on those planes and in those buildings," Lemack said.

Linder's comments were "obviously insensitive," agreed Kristen Breitweiser, whose husband, Ron, was killed in the twin towers. "Any death from a terrorist attack that didn't need to happen is a catastrophe."

Asked whether Linder acknowledges that he crossed an emotional line, his spokeswoman, Gretchen Learman, said, "We certainly are." A lost jetliner "would be a devastating tragedy," she said.

Chertoff took exception to Linder's bizarre complaints about protecting air travel. "I certainly think that toenail clippers are not the thing we're worried about," Chertoff said.

New York lawmakers also expressed outrage. "I'm speechless. New Yorkers know we need to be strong on every front, not just worst-case scenarios," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan).

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-Westchester) said it's "unbelievable" her fellow committee member doesn't see every terror attack as catastrophic.

Linder said more federal cash should be spent on hunting nuclear devices in terrorists' hands. "Preventing nuclear terrorism merits resources - but not at the expense of aviation security," Lemack said.

Originally published on May 4, 2005