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Posted at 11:47 AM ET, 03/11/2011

Did TSA really screen all air cargo?

By Luke Rosiak

(This post has been updated with information on the cargo screening process from the TSA.)

The Transportation Security Administration says it screened all air cargo--but a government auditor said there's no way the TSA can know that. It's the second time this month the GAO has dinged the TSA for over-hyping itself and keeping shoddy records.

"Airline industry representatives report screening data to the TSA, but the government has no way to verify the accuracy of the data. TSA cannot cross-reference its local screening logs, which have information on specific shipments, with the reports submitted by air carriers to TSA," the Center for Public Integrity reported today.

"Another area of concern is the cargo transported on pallets or containers. No technology is currently approved by TSA to screen cargo once it's loaded onto a large-sized pallet -- a common means of transporting air cargo on passenger aircrafts," the Center wrote.

"TSA officials stated that current screening percentages are based on actual data reported by air carriers, but stated that it is difficult to verify the accuracy of the screening data reported by air carriers," the report said.

The U.S. has invested billions in air security after the September 11, 2001 attacks, but it's unclear how effective it has been.

The TSA's Jim Fotenos provided the following statement to The Post:

"TSA requires screening of 100 percent of cargo on passenger aircraft departing US airports. Air carriers are responsible for screening to TSA standards before cargo is loaded their aircraft. TSA has 500 inspectors and over 100 canine teams throughout the country dedicated to air cargo. The inspectors regularly, continually and rigorously audit cargo facilities to ensure compliance with screening regulations.

TSA also understands the challenges in cargo screening. We have worked closely with the air cargo industry to develop procedures that secure passenger aircraft without impeding the flow of commerce. To address one of the unique challenges, TSA created the Certified Cargo Screening Program (CCSP). Through this voluntary program, freight forwarders, shippers and manufacturers can apply to screen cargo away from the airport spreading the screening burden throughout the supply chain. CCSP facilities are subject to the same rigorous standards as air carriers and subject to unannounced inspection. This program allows freight forwarders to screen items prior to assembling on large pallets and tender this prescreened cargo directly to the airlines. There are approximately 1200 CCSP facilities throughout the country.

TSA has approved many pieces of technology, which are in widespread use, with the ability to screen large skids. We have also solicited the industry for technology to screen containers with multiple types of cargo, which is how large containers are typically packed.

Air cargo is more secure than it has ever been, and TSA continues to work with industry to ensure 100 percent of cargo is screened on passenger aircraft in the US."

By Luke Rosiak  | March 11, 2011; 11:47 AM ET
Categories:  Airlines, Airports, Transportation Politics  
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