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Brussels attacks: What Pennsylvanians need to know

Tuesday morning’s terrorist bombings on the airport and subway in Brussels will revive questions Americans have been grappling with since 9/11.

Are we doing enough to prevent such attacks? Is tighter security needed?

While leaders in Europe and other countries quickly announced plans to re-examine and tighten security, it may be too soon to say what the attacks will mean for travelers here in the U.S., including Pennsylvania and surrounding states.

Some cities, however, already are taking measures, including Washington, D.C., and its Metro and Philadelphia’s Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority.

Below are reactions from some leaders in the region this morning. Check back throughout the day for updates.

Airports stress security

With Brussels airport closed until tomorrow at least, U.S. airlines were among those scrambling to make changes:

American Airlines flight 751 from Brussels to Philadelphia has been canceled for today. When operations at the Brussels airport resume, American said, it will reaccommodate customers on available flights. Flight 750 from Philadelphia to Brussels is not scheduled for today.

United Airlines canceled flights to and from Brussels after a flight from Washington Dulles landed safely and a flight from Newark Liberty “was rerouted to a remote location and our customers and crew have deplaned.”

Delta said its DL80 from Atlanta to Brussels landed safely at the airport, while DL42 from New York was diverted to Amsterdam.

Here at home, airport officials are assessing the situation and deferring to security agencies.

• Harrisburg International Airport spokesman Scott Miller did not expect any immediate travel impacts at HIA, adding that the only customers who might be affected are those who who were scheduled to fly to Brussels via connecting flights through Atlanta, Washington or Chicago.

“At this time it is too early to try and predict what any potential long-term impacts could be as a result of today’s events,” Miller said, referring questions about security to federal officials.

• Officials at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, a regional hub popular with southcentral Pennsylvania travelers, said security is an ongoing concern.

“At this time there is no indication of a specific threat to BWI Marshall. However BWI Marshall is working closely with federal and state security and law enforcement agencies to ensure the safety of the traveling public,” spokeswoman Whitney Kidd said.

“BWI Marshall consistently operates with a high level of security and vigilance. At BWI Marshall, along with airports across the U.S., aviation security is a layered approach. There are measures in place that travelers would recognize and others that may not be easily observed,” Kidd added.

• Efforts to reach Transportation Security Administration officials were not immediately successful.

Amtrak: More police

Amtrak officials released this statement, saying its police “are working with state, local and federal law enforcement partners to gather and share intelligence,” and that extra officers have been deployed.

“We have reminded Amtrak employees to look for and report any suspicious activity and unattended items and reissued guidance pertaining to facility inspections and active shooter incidents.”

Amtrak encouraged individuals “to report behaviors or activities that are unusual or out of the ordinary such as trespassers and suspicious packages” by calling Amtrak Police at 1-800-331-0008, or by texting APD11 from a smartphone or 27311 from a standard cell phone.

Wolf reaction

Gov. Tom Wolf said “there are no known related threats in the U.S. or in Pennsylvania,” and that state officials have been in communication with their federal counterparts.

“On behalf of all Pennsylvanians, Frances and I extend our deepest condolences to the Belgian people and all those affected by these horrific acts of violence,” Wolf said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with victims of this heartbreaking tragedy and their families. We stand united against those who seek to harm innocent people and instill fear in our daily lives.

“My top priority is the safety of the people of Pennsylvania and we will continue to work with federal and local partners to ensure the commonwealth is safe and prepared.”

Barletta reaction

Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Luzerne County), whose district covers parts of the midstate, sits on the House Homeland Security Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

“Details are still coming in, but from what we already know, this attack has all of the hallmarks of an assault by the Islamic State, or was at the very least inspired by the terrorist group. This immediately brings to mind the Paris attacks of last year and the ISIS-inspired terrorism in San Bernardino, California,” Barletta said.

“Whether the Brussels attacks were in response to recent arrests connected to Paris is unclear at this moment, but that possibility should not shake us from staying vigilant and rooting out terrorism wherever it roosts,” he added.

Barletta, faulting the nation’s “porous borders and faulty visa system,” cited the recent example of a 23-year-old Ukrainian man who was fraudulently enrolled under a fake name in a midstate high school.

“I am again reminded of the 9/11 Commission Report, which told us that terrorists want two things most of all: to gain entry into the United States and to be able to stay here long enough to carry out their missions,” he said.

“I fear that our lax policies have made it too easy for them.”

Roger DuPuis
Roger DuPuis covers Cumberland County, health care, transportation, distribution, energy and environment. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at rdupuis@cpbj.com.

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