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Logan to get more explosives detection units

Janet Napolitano, secretary of Homeland Security, watched Jefferson Morales demonstrate the device yesterday at Logan. Janet Napolitano, secretary of Homeland Security, watched Jefferson Morales demonstrate the device yesterday at Logan. (Elise Amendola/Associated Press)
By Travis Andersen
Globe Staff / April 16, 2010

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Janet Napolitano, the secretary of Homeland Security, announced yesterday in Boston that $35.5 million in federal stimulus funds will be used to buy 1,200 explosives detection units that will be placed at airports nationwide, including 60 more at Logan International Airport.

Napolitano detailed the plan at a press conference at Logan. Security at the airport is a key issue because two of the planes involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks departed from Boston.

“These state-of-the-art technologies will strengthen security and streamline screening operations while making air travel more convenient for passengers,’’ Napolitano said.

She said that Logan would receive its additional explosives detection units by early summer. Fifty of the devices are already in use at the airport.

“The threat of explosives remains a great concern to all of us,’’ she said.

About 7,000 of the explosives trace detection devices are in use at airports across the country, according to Homeland Security.

Phil Orlandella, a spokesman for Massport, which runs Logan, said that the airport has always offered itself as a venue for new security measures.

“We’ve been testing everything that you can possibly think of that could turn out to be of potential use at airports,’’ he said.

Napolitano also announced that $6.1 million would be used to purchase 135 chemical analysis devices that will be able to identify possible explosives in liquids.

Ann Davis, a spokeswoman for the Northeast region of the federal Transportation Security Administration, said that Logan has the devices at every checkpoint in designated “family lanes,’’ where travelers can carry more than three ounces of “medically necessary’’ liquids, such as baby formula.

Napolitano was asked during the press conference why airport security workers are not interviewing more travelers in terminals.

She said that while interviews, behavior detection, and canine units are part of a “multiple set of layers’’ of airport security, staffers must also rely on screening technology, because of time constraints and the volume of passengers.

When asked how she felt about being on President Obama’s short list for the Supreme Court, she said, “I’m flattered, but I am focused on the job that I’ve got.’’

The federal stimulus bill, which Obama signed into law in February 2009, earmarked $1 billion for airport security measures, including $734 million for screening checked baggage and $266 million for explosive detection devices at checkpoints, according to Homeland Security.

Last month, Napolitano announced the initial deployment of stimulus-funded advanced imaging technology units, commonly known as body scanners, at 11 airports including Logan. The units allow screeners to check for weapons, explosives, and other objects concealed under layers of clothing, according to federal authorities.

Davis said yesterday that Logan has four body scanners and should receive more in the coming months.

Also yesterday, Homeland Security announced the expansion of an inline baggage screening system, which scans checked luggage for explosives, at Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport, with $30.4 million in stimulus funds.

Napolitano is confident that the stimulus-funded devices will make airports safer, even as the threat of terrorism remains a concern.

“It’s an ever-evolving threat,’’ she said. “It’s not static.’’

Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com.

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