You can feel pretty confident that the birthday bouquet delivered to your door next year won’t have a hidden bomb, thanks to a new program that will check every commercial driver’s license holder against the U.S. government’s list of possible terrorists.
The real intent of the Transportation Security Administration’s new strategy is to make sure that a trucker with terrorist ties won’t load an explosive into a box slated to go on an airplane, said Kip Hawley, who pilots the Homeland Security Department organization responsible for making skies safe.
Hawley was in the East Valley on Monday to speak to air cargo leaders about how to keep freight flowing while keeping those in the passenger compartment above the cargo hold safe.
“We know al-Qaida is regrouping, we know aviation continues to be a focus, and we know they are training people to attack,” Hawley said in a speech during the air cargo convention at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort on the Gila River Indian Community. “This is very, very, very real.”
Hawley said the TSA’s focus is to make sure no one again uses an airplane as a weapon or loads bombs on board.
Keeping procedures fluid and an unpredictable implementation of them will ensure terrorists can’t figure out how to bypass the safeguards, Hawley said.
And adding multiple layers of security — not just depending on an airport check to discover a dangerous load — is key, he said.
The government is working on ways to detect problem containers before they even get near an airport, he said, and one way is to know who handles items throughout the shipping process.
The commercial driver’s license checks will begin sometime this year, said John Sammon, TSA’s assistant administrator for network management.
They won’t cost companies anything, Sammon said. But proposed legislation that is making its way through Congress would.
That legislation would require that every container shipped by air be inspected. Shippers said it would kill the air cargo industry, making it too expensive and slow.
“This U.S. House bill is equivalent to passenger baggage screening,” said Brandon Fried, executive director of the Airforwarders Association.
“It would deplete our resources, and it’s simply bad legislation.”
Hawley said the bill, if it passes, is likely to face a veto, because many Republicans and Democrats believe it is “unworkable.”
Tactics such as the driver’s license checks, canine patrols and inspecting containers based on risk rather than opening every one, are more likely to keep the system running smoothly and safely, Hawley said.
He blamed the plethora of procedures, such as plucking fingernail clippers out of carry-on bags, that have been refined or dropped on the uniquely “American trait of implementing the solution and then studying the problem.”