(Sean Whaley/Nevada News Bureau) – Gov. Jim Gibbons said air travelers should feel safe passing through Nevada’s two major airports despite last week’s attempted terrorist attack at Detroit, but he also strongly criticized the Obama Administration for failing to take proper actions to head off the failed attempt to blow up an airplane.
He also called on the administration’s Homeland Security Chief, Janet Napolitano, to resign.
Gibbons made his comments during a tour of the Reno-Tahoe International Airport, where he reviewed safety and security procedures including a demonstration of the facility’s bomb sniffing dog teams.
“I want to assure the people of Nevada, and those coming to Nevada, that our airports, Reno-Tahoe as well as the Las Vegas airport, have gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure that the traveling public is safe here,” Gibbons said.
But he also said the Obama Administration failed the traveling public by not “connecting the dots” to prevent suspected terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab from boarding Northwest Flight 253 on Christmas day. Abdulmutallab is suspected of attempting to detonate an explosive device in his underwear on the approach to the Detroit airport.
“They had the information available to them,” Gibbons said. “Then they tried to comfort the public by saying the system worked. When you have a failure like that, it’s not working.
“I think it is a result of this administration going back to treating terrorism like a crime, waiting until the act has been committed,” he said. “It’s failed the public. They need to take steps to show the public that they’ve taken the action to correct that. They need to make sure this never happens again.”
On the tour, Brian Kulpin, director of marketing and public affairs for the Reno airport, said those traveling through the facility will see an increased security presence as a result of the failed bombing attempt.
The airport is one of about 80 across the U.S. that has a canine explosive detection team, he said. The dog and police officer teams spent a lot of time examining cargo, but they can detect explosives on a passenger passing by as well.
The tour did not include all security areas, such as the baggage handling system. Gibbons said he has seen those areas but would not comment on any security procedures.
Kulpin said the airport’s new $63 million baggage handling system unveiled in November is so advanced for screening that other airport officials are coming to see it in operation.
The Reno airport is the 62nd busiest airport in the U.S. with nearly four million passengers passing through each year.
Gibbons and the media in attendance did get to see the airport’s $4.6 million Emergency Operations Center, which was relocated out of the main terminal area for enhanced security in 2006. Cameras showed various areas of the terminal and airport tarmac.
After the tour, Gibbons said he does not advocate the use of profiling passengers by race or ethnicity to detect terrorists as is done in some other countries. Using a terrorist profile, which would look at an individual’s associations and other factors, is appropriate, he said.