July 31, 2008 - Markey: TSA Misinterpretation of Air Cargo Screening Mandate Raises Concerns

Recent TSA statements suggest misinterpretation of 100% cargo screening mandate, raise doubts about meeting deadline for 100 percent cargo screening
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA), a senior member of the Homeland Security Committee and author of the 100 percent air cargo screening mandate signed into law in August 2007, and Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), chairwoman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security and Infrastructure Protection, were joined by four other Members of Congress in raising concerns about the Bush administration’s erroneous interpretation of the law and delays in implementing the air cargo screening mandate.
Today the lawmakers sent a letter to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Administrator Kip Hawley responding to TSA statements at two recent congressional hearings and reiterating that the air cargo screening mandate was intended to cover all cargo transported on passenger planes both within the United States and bound to the United States from overseas.

Rep. Markey said, "I worked for more than four years to pass the law closing the air cargo loophole and requiring 100 percent screening of cargo carried in the belly of passenger planes. Now TSA must fully meet this important security mandate, which clearly includes cargo bound for our country from overseas. It is troubling that TSA would misinterpret the law, particularly given the real security risks posed by cargo packed overseas and transported to our country on a passenger planes."

On July 15th, the Subcommittee on Transportation Security and Infrastructure Protection held an oversight hearing to assess the progress TSA has made in fulfilling the 100 percent screening requirement. During the hearing, Mr. John Sammon, TSA's Assistant Administrator, asserted that this statutory mandate does not apply to air cargo transported on passenger planes traveling from overseas to the United States. The lawmakers disputed this interpretation, and today's letter cites the text of the law and seeks TSA's written legal analysis supporting its position. The full text of the letter is available here.


The lawmakers' letter comes one week after doubts were raised about whether TSA would meet the August 2010 deadline for implementing the 100 percent air cargo screening requirement as required by the 9/11 law. According to media reports, Administrator Hawley said that TSA would meet an interim deadline established in the law, but Mr. Hawley "stopped short of guaranteeing 100 percent coverage by 2010", saying only that TSA would "progress toward August 2010." 


"TSA's recent statements raise serious concerns about whether the agency will implement - appropriately and on-time - one of the major new requirements in the 9/11 law.  I look forward to a full explanation from TSA and will continue to closely monitor this situation," Rep. Markey concluded.


More information about Rep. Markey's work on air cargo screening is available HERE.


The October 2008 response from TSA can be found HERE


July 31, 2008

CONTACT: Jessica Schafer, 202.225.2836