Here’s a piece I wrote for the Defense Media Network on screening international cargo bound for the United States. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has been hard pressed to meet this final aspect of the 9/11 Act cargo screening mandate. In short, to satisfy congressional law, TSA has reinterpreted the mandate in an attempt to achieve 100 percent screening without physically screening all international cargo on passenger planes.
International air carriers break U.S. federal law every day. Any cargo flown on a passenger plane in U.S. airspace (whether of domestic or foreign origin) must be screened for explosives. Yet, despite the law, some cargo flown into the United States does not meet the “100 percent” standard.
It has been over a year since a congressional deadline to screen all cargo on passenger planes. While the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) initially said meeting the 100 percent mandate for international cargo would take several years, it announced last spring that everything would be screened in full by Dec. 31, 2011. This is not because foreign governments are bowing and adhering to U.S. security protocol; rather, TSA is adjusting how it interprets the mandate.
In 2007, Congress passed the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 (9/11 Act). The law addressed myriad homeland security issues, among them, cargo screening. Industry was given three years to comply with a mandate to screen for explosives all cargo transported on passenger planes. When the deadline arrived, domestic cargo met the law, and international cargo did not.