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09 May 2003

Senate Passes Bill to Ensure Air Cargo Security

(Measure to allow cargo pilots to carry handguns) (350)
By Andrzej Zwaniecki



Washington File Staff Writer


Washington -- The Senate has passed a bill aimed at ensuring that all
cargo transported by air is screened and inspected.

The bill passed May 8 by voice vote would require the Transportation
Security Administration (TSA) to develop a strategic plan for
screening air cargo and inspecting both cargo itself and cargo
shipping facilities, according to news reports.

It calls for the establishment of a database of shippers and a
training program for personnel handling cargo as well as security
plans at cargo companies.


Cargo in airline holds and air cargo planes were not covered by the
aviation security bill passed by Congress in 2001 following the
terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

For the bill to become law it must be passed by both the Senate and
House of Representatives and signed by the president.

"Since September 11, we have made great strides in aviation security
with improved screenings and checked baggage inspections, " said
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Republican from Texas who co-sponsored
the bill. "But air cargo continues to fly under radar."

The bill would require the TSA to establish guidelines for verifying
passenger identification and the Homeland Security secretary to report
to Congress on the impact on privacy of the new Computer Assisted
Passenger Prescreening System, knows as CAPPS II, which aims to
prevent terrorists from boarding commercial airplanes.

Parliamentarians and privacy groups in both the United States and
Europe have expressed concern about the adequacy of passenger data
protection in the U.S. airline security regime, including CAPPS II.

Another provision of the bill would allow trained air cargo pilots to
carry handguns after special training. A bill approved May 8 by a
House Transportation subcommittee contains a similar provision,
according to news reports.

In the 2002 homeland security legislation Congress mandated the TSA to
train commercial pilots who would volunteer to carry guns. In April
the TSA announced swearing in the first batch of pilots as federal
flight deck officers authorized to carry guns.

(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:
http://usinfo.state.gov)