Lawmaker Questions DHS Secretary Chertoff, Says TSA’s Poor Performance Raises Questions About Agency’s “Certified Shipper” Plan

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA), a senior member of the House Homeland Security Committee, today responded to the release of a report prepared by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General. The report identified dangerous security gaps in the policies DHS uses to ensure the safety of commercial cargo carried on passenger planes. Rep. Markey questioned DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff about the report yesterday during a Homeland Security Committee hearing.

“This report is a scathing indictment of the Department of Homeland Security’s current policies for verifying that bombs, explosives and other dangerous items are not slipped into cargo containers carried in the belly of a passenger plane,” Rep. Markey said. “The Department’s own Inspector General has confirmed concerns I have repeatedly raised about dangerous cargo security loopholes, including the failure of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to ensure that air carriers are complying with screening requirements and TSA’s reliance on paper records rather than physical examinations of cargo.”

“The DHS Inspector General’s report is another reminder of the Bush administration’s abysmal record on air cargo security, and it raises serious questions about its ability to effectively implement the 100 percent air cargo screening requirement signed into law last month. When I pressed Secretary Chertoff for answers yesterday, I was troubled by how he brushed off and downplayed the serious problems raised by this report.

“When Congress passed legislation implementing the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, it sent a strong message that the status quo for cargo security was unacceptable. As I told Secretary Chertoff, his view that the Department should think ‘outside the box’ is fine, but I reminded him that DHS also needs to check inside every air cargo box. If the Bush administration tries to twist the new 100% screening program to satisfy industry at the expense of public safety, it will find that there's a new sheriff in town,” added Markey.

In its report, entitled “Transportation Security Administration’s Oversight of Passenger Aircraft Cargo Security Faces Significant Challenges”, the DHS Inspector General concluded that:

• “The Transportation Security Administration’s inspection process may not accurately represent the extent to which air carriers comply with cargo screening requirements.” (Page 1)

• “The current level of oversight does not provide assurance that air carriers are meeting congressionally-mandated goals of tripling the amount of cargo screened for passenger aircraft…Consequently, the process increases opportunities for the carriage of explosives, incendiaries, and other dangerous devices on passenger aircraft.” (Page 2)

• “TSA information reported to the Congress regarding air carrier compliance with legislative and regulatory requirements may be inaccurate.” (Page 16)

• “TSA’s security programs are not clearly written, allowing ASIs [TSA’s Aviation Security Inspectors] and air carriers to interpret and apply the regulations differently.” (Page 10)

Rep. Markey is the primary author of the air cargo provision included in Public Law 110-53, the law to implement the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, which requires – within three years - the screening of all cargo carried on passenger planes at a level of security commensurate to the security applied to airline passengers’ checked bags.

“As TSA develops the system to screen all the cargo carried on passenger planes, I am extremely concerned that some of the same weaknesses exposed by the Department’s Inspector General could undermine the new system’s effectiveness. I am particularly troubled that a so-called ‘Certified Shipper’ program being developed by TSA could be plagued by the same type of ‘trust-but-don’t-verify’ security loopholes uncovered in today’s report. I will be closely monitoring TSA’s implementation of the new 100 percent cargo screening requirements,” concluded Rep. Markey

Read the DHS Inspector General report HERE.

Video clip of Rep. Markey questioning Sec. Chertoff HERE.


September 6, 2007

CONTACT: Jessica Schafer, 202.225.2836