Posted: 04 Jan 2011 06:44 AM PST
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano played down on Tuesday prospects of adopting Israeli-style aviation security in response to protests at intrusive patdowns and screenings at American airports.
Visiting Israel to assess its streamlined and sometimes controversial system, Napolitano defended her administration's measures as appropriate to the scale and legal requirements of U.S. air travel, and said they were gaining public support.
"I don't see any changes in the immediate future," she told Reuters. "We are always refining our procedure, but the point is that we have fewer than one percent of the travelling public opt out of the system, and so part of what is going on is people adjusting to the changes in airport security."
Following attempted al Qaeda attacks, including by a passenger accused of trying to blow up a bomb hidden in his clothes aboard a flight to Detroit in 2009, U.S. authorities have deployed hundreds of full-body scanners and introduced more intensive frisking. Delays and privacy complaints have surged.
Speaking between a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a tour of Ben-Gurion Airport, Napolitano said "a quarter to a third" of her visit was focussing on aviation, and the rest on other security concerns.
She said the allies "share a common goal" but was circumspect on whether Ben-Gurion's methods for vetting outgoing passengers and cargo might be adapted for U.S. airports.
"There are real differences, for example, in size and scale between Israel and the United States," she said, noting the latter's 450 international airports, many of which dwarf the mid-sized Ben-Gurion with its elaborate state-funded safeguards.
Also being discussed between the two countries is a fledgling Israeli system for identifying the pilots of incoming planes to ensure they have not been hijacked, Napolitano said.
Israel regularly scrambles warplanes to escort in suspect aircraft. Interception tactics are a hot-button issue in the United States since the September 11, 2001 attacks, but Napolitano said it had not come up in her meetings in Israel.
"No, we are not at that level right now," she said. "This is a more general discussion and exploration of practices."
Arab and Muslim travellers complain of being routinely subjected to extra scrutiny at Ben-Gurion. Israeli security officials say their attentions are guided by a broad range of criteria as to which passengers could potentially pose a danger.
While avoiding direct comment on Israeli policy, Napolitano made clear profiling would not fly in the United States.
"There are some differences in the laws and the legal constraints that we abide by," she said. "There may be some things that can be shared (with Israel) and some things that would not ... The practices and techniques that we use will differ and do differ."
Israeli officials credit Ben-Gurion with employing highly trained security staff with access to real-time intelligence updates and the autonomy to avoid falling into rote methodology.
Napolitano said the United States similarly gathers an array of advance information on passengers to supplement the hands-on searches at airports.
"It's more based on the individual and based on intelligence. For example, we will have unseen behaviour detection officers in our airports, that differ from airport to airport, so predictability is not one of the tools that we use.
"We also share data between countries," Napolitano said.
But she described such precautions as stopping short of any broad-brush approach toward visitors from countries that the United States might deem a security risk. "It is really driven more by intelligence than by geography," she said.
(Editing by Jason Neely)
Copyright © 2011 Reuters
Posted: 04 Jan 2011 06:44 AM PST
HALL, Austria (Reuters) - Hundreds of graves found at an Austrian state hospital will be exhumed once the ground thaws to see if any are victims of a Nazi-era purge of patients deemed unworthy to live, authorities said on Tuesday.
The discovery of about 220 bodies in a hospital cemetery during a construction project in Hall, near the Tyrolean capital Innsbruck, aroused suspicions that some of those buried there between 1942 and 1945 were victims of a euthanasia campaign.
"But one should not speak of 220 murder victims," historian Oliver Seifert told Reuters Television, noting that some of the patients buried there may have died of undernourishment or natural causes.
Officials told a news conference a panel of experts would oversee the two-year project to identify the dead from hospital records and genetic samples.
Nazi Germany, which annexed Austria in 1938, introduced mass killings of the physically and mentally handicapped in an effort to eradicate people deemed inferior.
Thousands in Austria died in gas chambers at the Hartheim Castle euthanasia centre near Linz.
At least 360 patients from the hospital in Hall were sent to their deaths before the so-called T4 euthanasia programme officially ended in August 1941, ushering in a new phase in which victims died from neglect, hunger or drug overdoses.
"This phase of 'wild euthanasia' between 1942 and 1945 has really been examined in just a cursory way," Seifert said.
"This is certainly a first step and a good opportunity to see what happened here and how to view it. We know that active killing went on at other institutions in Austria ... but there are no indications of this at the moment in Hall."
The hospital cemetery in Hall might have been opened in 1942 as part of plans -- never realised -- to set up its own euthanasia station, deputy medical director Christian Haring said.
"This dark chapter of history must now be carefully examined and cleared up," provincial Governor Guenther Platter told the Austria Press Agency, saying he was deeply shaken by the discovery.
(Reporting by Marcus Nagle and Michael Shields; editing by Andrew Dobbie )
Copyright © 2011 Reuters
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