DHS chief: Airports stepping up security over holiday weekend

DHS chief: Airports stepping up security over holiday weekend
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The head of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said U.S. airports can expect to see a stepped up security presence over the Fourth of July holiday weekend, days after suicide bombings killed 42 people at Turkey's Istanbul Ataturk Airport.

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), state and local enforcement would all beef up their efforts at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Thursday.

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But Johnson also warned the government and American public not to limit their attention on security threats to the aviation sector, despite two major terrorist attacks on airports abroad in the past four months.

While airports remain a prime target for terrorists, Johnson urged people to remain vigilant in all public spaces.

“My caution is that when it comes to public spaces and public events, we should not focus our attention on airports to the exclusion of other public events,” Johnson said.

Extra patrols have been deployed at several major U.S. airports this week, while the TSA has already increased the number of bomb-sniffing dog teams in the wake of the Brussels airport terrorist attack in March.

But the agency hasn't made any major changes to its security strategy following this week’s attack, with Johnson encouraging people to carry on with their July Fourth plans.

“We continue to encourage the public to travel, to celebrate, to continue to go to public events,” he said. “Public awareness and vigilance can and does make a difference.”

Johnson also emphasized that airport security would not be compromised in the face of long lines at checkpoints, although he noted that wait times have substantially improved since Congress approved a funding shift in the TSA’s current budget to hire more screening officers.

“We will not short-cut aviation security in response to increased travel volume,” he said.