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Terror plot sparks long lines at Newark International, NJ Transit increases security

(The Associated circulated the following article by Wayne Parry on August 10.)

NEWARK, N.J. -- U.S. air travelers poured out liquids, opened their bags for inspection and endured long waits Thursday as airports heightened security and some flights were canceled or delayed after the discovery of a terror plot aimed at airlines traveling from Britain to the United States.

New Jersey's homeland security chief, Richard Canas, said there were no specific threats for Newark Liberty International Airport or anything else in the state, as far as authorities know.

But travelers at Newark's Terminal B, which handles many international flights, were caught Thursday morning in one of the worst airport screening lines in recent memory.

The line stretched the entire length of the terminal, roughly six football fields, and was barely moving.

Andra Racibarskas, of Chatham, was trying to get to Michigan to pick up her daughter from camp.

"Checking in was very easy. It took one minute curbside. It took one minute to get my boarding pass. It took 15 minutes to find the end of the line. This line is at least four hours long. As a frequent flyer, I've never seen anything like this, even after 9-11." she said.

The security lines at Terminal C, where Continental bases its flights at the airport, was even worse. The crush of people brought to mind a chaotic rock concert.

Bill Federman, of Oklahoma City, had missed his Contintental flight home because of the long line but was hoping to catch a later departure.

"It's complete disaster and chaos. This has completely overwhelmed the airport's planning. I haven't seen anything this bad since 9-11," he said.

The government said it was banning liquids including beverages, hair gels and lotions from flights, explaining only that liquids emerged as a risk from the investigation in Britain.

At Newark, screeners and Transportation Security Administration agents walked up and down the line urging passengers to discard anything liquid in their carry-on baggage. Garbage cans rapidly filled with hair gel, shampoo and cologne.

Robert Coppola, of Toms River, was trying to fly to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., but was unhappy to learn he'd have to get rid of his Cool Water cologne. He said the ban was aggravating, but that he'd rather be safe than smell good.

Canas said he was briefed at 1 a.m. by federal authorities. He said increased airport security regulations, including the ban of most liquids on domestic flights, was likely to continue.

"This will go on until they turn over every rock. We're looking at weeks here," Canas said.

Canas also said NJ Transit increased security on the commuter railroad.

The U.S. government raised its threat warning to the highest level for commercial flights from Britain to the United States and raised slightly the alert for all flights coming or going from the U.S.

It is the first time the red alert level in the Homeland Security warning system has been invoked, although there have been brief periods in the past when the orange level was applied. Homeland Security defines the red alert as designating a "severe risk of terrorist attacks."

Thursday, August 10, 2006

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