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At airports, walk in your socks

Washington, July 11 (AFP): The US said yesterday it would try to persuade all air passengers to shuffle through airport security checks in their socks.

The authorities were “clarifying” their anti-shoe bomb policy to help speed up clearance procedures, said a Transport Security Administration (TSA) statement.

Passengers would be “encouraged” but not required to remove their shoes and submit them for X-ray examination before going through metal detectors, TSA administrator James Loy said.

People who kept their shoes on would have a bigger risk of being selected for a more thorough, secondary screening. Thick-soled shoes and those with metal shanks or steel toes, in particular, would be targetted.

“TSA’s increased focus on screening shoes in recent months reflects a necessary reaction to information gathered by federal intelligence agencies,” the authority said. The latest policy was part of a drive for consistency.

“Our screeners have always worked hard to make sure a ‘shoe bomb’ does not get on an aircraft,” Loy said.

“Now we must make sure our security process is consistent so air travellers know what to expect at every airport in the country.”

In January, a US judge sentenced a Briton, Richard Reid to life imprisonment for trying to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight with explosives hidden in his shoe. Reid was a self-proclaimed disciple of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Declaring himself an enemy of the United States, Reid, 29, had pleaded guilty in to trying to blow up a Paris-to-Miami American Airlines flight carrying 197 people on December 22, 2001.

Since the shoe bomber incident US security has given greater attention to footwear, but passengers have complained that each airport enforces a different policy.

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