Saturday, October 30, 2010

Non-Screening Screening

Huh? Non-screening screening? Did I read that headline right?

You did. That hed stands above this post thanks to a new U.S. law that requires all air cargo loaded onto U.S.-bound passenger flights to be screened. Law or no law, much of it isn't. The law is toothless. The 75-year-old grandmother who was pulled aside for additional screening at the airport? She may be sitting above a dangerous package stowed in the cargo hold of her flight.

The cargo screening law went into effect August 1, three years after the U.S. Congress, alarmed by continuing clueless security, mandated that all cargo on U.S.-bound passenger flights be screened for dangerous materials intended to cause harm. The U.S. Transportation Security Administration said at the time the law went into effect that perhaps 80 to 85 percent of that cargo is being screened now, but the private contractors, foreign governments, airlines and airports charged with screening cargo haven't all complied with the law.

This, mind you, does not pertain to all-cargo flights such as the UPS and FedEx flights flagged for carrying menacing cargo from Yemen addressed to Jewish targets in Chicago - that's another issue.

More than nine years after the airborne attacks on the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001, you'd think there would be a greater sense of urgency, and that the TSA and other security agencies would be smarter about airborne threats, but you'd be wrong.

All this is limned in compelling detail in today's (Oct. 30) New York Times by reporter Christine Hauser. Hauser's piece ( ends on an ominous note:

"... part of the problem is that the TSA as of earlier this year had not approved the use of devices to screen large pallets or containers of cargo. A significant amount of air cargo headed to the United States is also given an exemption from screening if it is in shrink-wrapped bundles, based on an assumption that the shipper knows the contents are secure ...''

Moreover, Hauser concludes, the TSA "does not have a reliable way to monitor the process'' at non-U.S. airports to ensure compliance.

You've heard the expression "not worth the paper it is written on''? Enough said.

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