A week after dressing down TSA for suggesting that Congress did not really mean for all air cargo to be scanned, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson followed up with a letter to DHS accusing it of trying to undermine congressional intent to fully scan 100 percent of all cargo — both air and maritime.

In an August 5th letter Thompson accused DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff of engaging in “a concerted effort to thwart the will of the American people on the issue of 100 percent scanning of U.S.-bound maritime cargo.”

Thompson asserts that the law gives adequate time (five years — until July 1, 2012) for DHS to find and implement new technologies and operations to implement the 100 percent scanning mandate but that DHS is purposefully ignoring congressional intent.

Thompson proceeds to list a variety of comments coming from DHS officials that suggest 100 percent scanning is unwise, including comments by CBP Commissioner Ralph Basham that it would undermine DHS’s risk-based security model. Thompson responds: “I could not disagree more.”

Thompson goes on to note that Chertoff has in the past made comments that the 100 percent scanning law was a better political soundbite than security model and might cripple trade and that “opening and inspecting 100 percent of the containers that come into this country” would “be in the end of our ports.”

The Chairman ends his scathing letter with a demand that Chertoff respond in writing to a series of questions, such as:

  • What resources and plans are in place for his successor to carry out the congressional mandate for 100 percent scanning
  • Given that the 2012 deadline is looming, provide a report on steps taken to meet the mandate
  • By what authority did DHS determine it could ignore the “congressionally mandated 100 percent scanning requirement” in favor of the less severe approach of scanning only cargo in “high risk trade corridors.”