Markey Negotiates Strong Air Cargo, Maritime Cargo, Rail, Whistleblower Provisions

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA), a senior member of the House Homeland Security Committee, yesterday signed off on the final version of the bill to implement the recommendations of the independent 9/11 Commission. The legislation includes several key Markey legislative initiatives and reflects his involvement in the negotiations to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate bills and produce the final version.

The final agreement includes Markey provisions requiring screening of 100% of air cargo carried on passenger planes and screening and sealing of all ship containers before they reach U.S. ports. It also contains mandatory re-routing of security-sensitive materials such as chlorine to the safest and most secure rail route. In addition, the conference report contains new, enhanced whistleblower protections for public transit and rail security and safety employees. These provisions have been longstanding initiatives that Rep. Markey has fought for over the last four years by introducing legislation and offering amendments on many occasions.

“More than three years after the release of the 9/11 Commission’s report, Congress is finally passing legislation to fully implement the critical recommendations of that report. I have been working for years to call attention to the security threat posed by unscreened cargo on passenger planes. I am pleased that we have reached agreement on a critical reform of our country’s policy for securing cargo carried on passenger planes,” said Rep. Markey.

“For the first time, we reject the notion that data checks for cargo are sufficient to keep us safe and instead this bill requires an evaluation of the cargo’s contents, a level of screening on par with the scrutiny given to passenger checked baggage. The days of relying solely on paperwork checks are over. We will not just trust the cargo shippers, but also verify that the contents of the cargo are safe. This is a fundamental shift in our cargo security and an important change in order to ensure the safety of travelers.”

Provisions in the final 9/11 bill based on Rep. Markey’s work include:

  • 100% screening of all air cargo carried on passenger planes within three years.
  • 100% overseas screening of maritime cargo destined for U.S. ports within five years
  • A requirement that rail carriers re-route shipments of security-sensitive materials to the safest and most secure route.
  • New whistleblower protections for public transit and rail safety and security employees that ensures that these modern-day Paul Reveres have recourse if they are retaliated against for pointing out a safety or security flaw.

“I am also proud that we have set a standard for 100% overseas maritime screening within the next five years. Preventing a weapon of mass destruction from reaching U.S. soil should be a top priority for the Homeland Security Department, and this language will ensure that we will be able to intercept terrorist attempts to smuggle nuclear weapons before they get loaded onto ships headed for this country instead of after they arrive on our shores,” Rep. Markey said.

Currently, the Department of Homeland Security attempts to ascertain the risk posed by certain containers, a policy that relies on data, rather than physical checks, and results in the physical screening of only a fraction of the approximately 11 million cargo containers that arrive in our country every year. “Failure to screen all cargo containers overseas doesn’t just ‘miss the boat,’ it also could miss the bomb, with devastating consequences for our country,” Rep. Markey said.

On inclusion in the bill of a requirement to re-route shipments of hazardous material around high-risk areas, Rep. Markey said, “Every day tank cars pass through our urban centers carrying enough chlorine to kill 100,000 people in half an hour. Although some of these shipments must travel the routes they are currently using, others could easily be safely re-routed to avoid population centers and other sensitive areas. These shipments of toxic chemicals are literally ‘Hell on Wheels’ rolling through our communities. The language in the conference report ensures that the safest and most secure route must be taken.”

When the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1 in January it was the first action taken by Congress to fully implement the critical recommendations of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission Report. The final negotiated agreement will now go to a floor vote in both the House and Senate before being sent to the president.


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July 26, 2007

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