Not as Safe as We Thought

Security advisors have been saying for years that cargo security needs as much attention -- if not more --  than passenger airlines, or cargo placed in the airlines. Last week’s attempted terrorist attack only illustrates the vulnerabilities of the cargo system.

The international cargo system still has flaws, despite efforts made since 9/11.

It appears that al Qaeda sent bombs disguised as printer components via UPS and FedEx, headed to Chicago synagogues, and have the markings of the attempted underwear bomber from last Christmas.

Speaking on Face the Nation, John Brennan, the administration’s top counterterrorism advisor said, “At this point we, I think, would agree with the British that it looks as though they were designed to be detonated in flight.”

Air cargo vulnerabilities have been known for years. The Center for American Progress offered a report in 2007 on air cargo security, suggesting that commercial terrorism is not only feasible but is an obvious means to bring down a U.S. airliner.

The report suggested an immediate target of 80 to 90 percent cargo inspection with the operating premise “that all cargo that can be inspected should be inspected,” with an ultimate goal of 100 percent. The report also noted that TSA should be directly responsible for all inspections, and that the agency needed proper resources to accomplish the mission.

The report further states that all international cargo be inspected upon arrival in the United States and should not be transferred uninspected onto domestic flights. Last, but not least, encourage strong global air cargo security standards through bilateral agreements and existing international aviation governance bodies.

Thought not included in the report, it might make sense to realize there are parts of the world where deadly air cargo might originate. I realize this sounds a lot like profiling, but we’re talking potentially deadly packages of destruction, not human traffic.

About the Author

Ralph C. Jensen is editor-in-chief of Security Today magazine.

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