August 16, 2006- MARKEY URGES IMMEDIATE UPGRADE IN CARGO SECURITY FOR PASSENGER PLANES AND CONTAINER SHIPS

Lawmaker Exposes Double Standard for Aviation Security, Demands That If Cargo Cannot Be Inspected By Current Explosive Detection Methods, It Should Not Be Loaded onto Passenger Planes Markey Highlights Other Massive Cargo Loophole, Urge Inspections for All Cargo on Container Ships Before Arrival at U.S. Ports

 

Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), a senior member of the House Homeland Security Committee, urged Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to institute 100% inspection of all cargo on passenger planes and inspection of container ship cargo before it sets sail for U.S. ports.  On the heels of the foiled London passenger airliner bombing plot, experts have continued to cite un-inspected cargo on passenger planes and container ships as a top terrorist threat to our country, yet the Bush Administration continues to leave these loopholes wide open.  Rep. Markey, who has repeatedly called for 100% screening of cargo on passenger planes and has introduced similar legislation, sent a letter today to Sec. Chertoff recommending immediate cargo security measures be implemented for passenger planes and container ships.  Markey recommended that no cargo that cannot be inspected using existing explosive detection methods should be allowed onto passenger planes and that all container ships are inspected before leaving foreign ports for the United States. 
“The 5th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks is only a few weeks away.  We have the technology.  We know the risks.  Today I’m urging the Bush Administration to take the steps needed to protect Americans from two potential cargo catastrophes.  Secretary Chertoff should plug the remaining cargo security loopholes so that terrorists can’t smuggle their explosives and nuclear weapons into this country, to stop relying on inadequate paperwork checks instead of sound security practices, and to stop catering to the interests of industry – and to start to take real steps to protect Americans,” Markey said.
Most of the 6 billion of pounds of cargo carried on passenger planes every year is loaded onboard without being scanned for liquid, plastic, or conventional explosives.  This cargo it is sent by commercial shippers to their customers – no one on the plane owns the cargo.

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report states that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) determined that up to 60 percent of the cargo transported by passenger air carriers is made up of break bulk items. In other words, cargo in sizes that can be screened using standard Explosive Detection System (EDS) machines currently used to screen checked baggage. 
And only about 1% of maritime cargo is scanned for radiation before it leaves the foreign port. For the other 99%, the Bush Administration relies on paperwork checks.

Only yesterday, a study was made public that RAND conducted for the Department of Homeland Security in 2004 that analyzed the possibility of a nuclear weapon detonation in a cargo container at the Port of LA/Long Beach.  They chose that scenario because analysts consider it to be feasible. This is what the report on this scenario, which was released yesterday, concluded would be the outcome JUST in the first 72 hours after the detonation:

·        Sixty thousand people might die instantly from the blast itself or quickly thereafter from radiation poisoning.

·        One-hundred-fifty thousand more might be exposed to hazardous levels of radioactive water and sediment from the port, requiring emergency medical treatment.

·        The blast and subsequent fires might completely destroy the entire infrastructure and all ships in the Port of Long Beach and the adjoining Port of Los Angeles.

·        Six million people might try to evacuate the Los Angeles region.

·        Two to three million people might need relocation because fallout will have contaminated a 500-km2 area.

·        Gasoline supplies might run critically short across the entire region because of the loss of Long Beach’s refineries—responsible for one-third of the gas west of the Rockies.

“Even with this RAND report in hand since 2004, the Bush Administration has focused its efforts on scanning for radiation AFTER CARGO CONTAINERS ALREADY HAVE ARRIVED IN OUR PORTS.  At that point, if there’s a bomb inside, it’s too late,” Markey continued.

Markey concluded, “Our policy for cargo on passenger planes should be: if it isn’t scanned, it should be banned!”