I see from yesterday morning’s press reports that House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson has written another letter to DHS asking about the status of the cargo screening mandate Congress has shoved down the throat of the aviation and maritime industries.

The Chairman’s approach would have more credibility, at least with me, if he would get over his apparent need to salt his communications with overly-partisan rhetoric and whiny language.

As Senator Byron Dorgan once told a witness in a Senate Commerce Committee hearing, there is nothing harder to challenge than a person who is “sincerely and passionately wrong.” But let me try:

Chairman Thompson, you need to get a better approach in your communications – those directed both to the Department of Homeland Security AND to the American public. There is no need for fire and brimstone missives from you or the subcommittee chairs on your committee. It only serves to harden attitudes and certainly does not make us more secure.

And to those private sector aviation and maritime interests for whom the congressionally-mandated 100% scanning requirement is looming – for wide-body passenger aircraft it is just a matter of a few weeks – it is time to make your voices heard.

A 100% cargo scanning requirement does NOT make us more secure but it does add significant costs to a system that is already reeling under high fuel prices and an uncertain economy.

Congress is pushing an unrealistic requirement because they ignored the fundamental concept of risk-based protection – the approach recommended by the 9/11 Commission and a majority of security experts. Perhaps their advocacy for 100% cargo scanning is passionate and sincere, based upon a belief that it is what “ought to be done.” Passion and sincerity, however, are not a substitute for facts – and the reality is that 100% cargo scanning is the wrong way to go.

David Olive focuses his blogging primarily on the “business of homeland security” — the interaction of the private sector with the Department of Homeland Security and other national security agencies. Read More