As Americans head into the busiest holiday travel season of the year, they can take comfort in the fact that TSA, CBP and DHS are assuring their fellow passengers are sufficiently groped, poked and prodded. Meanwhile unbeknownst to them hundreds of FedEx/UPS type cargo packages are placed in the belly of airplanes with little-to-no security scrutiny.
Yes, shipping companies routinely use commercial flights to get their packages from point A to B and according to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) sources they rarely look at the suspect cargo, many of which are inbound to America via the Middle East.
One CBP agent who spoke on anonymity for fear of workplace retaliation said, “I’ve seen hundreds of suspicious packages from the Middle East come into the country with little information or any recourse to find the original sender. They can ship any type of contraband they want with little chance of getting caught.”
The agent goes on to explain shipping on commercial planes is big business for the airlines and companies like FedEx and UPS are privileged customers. Oftentimes when cargo inspectors request an examination of a suspect package, they are told express delivery personnel have already taken the parcels in order to ensure an on-time delivery.
The conformation that Department of Homeland Security (DHS) doesn’t screen all air cargo comes from Janet Napolitano who oversees America’s security.
“Ordering 100 percent screening for air cargo is an easy thing to say, but it’s probably not the best way to go,” Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “Cargo is infinitely more complicated and comes in infinitely more shapes and sizes than passengers.” http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-11-19/u-s-screening-all-airline-cargo-not-feasible-napolitano-says.html
Napolitano also contends that extending laws to cover all cargo would “require some hundreds of treaties to be negotiated so that foreign governments would allow the screening. We (currently) have one consistent security regime in the aviation environment for the United States,” she told Bloomberg.
It would appear that “regime” is the correct word choice as airline passengers have been groped, fondled and even arrested for refusing to complete the intrusive security process that has expanded to every major airport in the nation.
Both TSA and DHS refused to answer any questions regarding the airplane cargo red herring.
Recent arrestee, Sam Wolanyk of San Diego, was arrested when he refused a TSA pat down and opted to remove his pants and shirt to show TSA he wasn’t hiding any illegal contraband. “While I was arrested for refusing to be groped by TSA, a terrorist can spend 20 bucks and ship a bomb using FedEx without proper screening. It’s ludicrous,” he said.
Indeed the logic behind TSA’s excessive body searches seems overly aggressive if the cargo aboard planes can go unchecked.
CBP agents see the security risks everyday; however they are thwarted by managers and told its business as usual.
“I tried to target FedEx packages for inspection but they would be delivered before I could get field officers to see what was in them. The majority of parcels just fly out of the ports of entry upon arrival. There is so much security and intel lost, but money talks and Political Action Committees (PACs) call Congressmen, Congressmen call DHS Managers and packages are released without scrutiny, it’s all about money,” a CBP Agent explained.
The reason for this increased physical intrusion of passengers stems from the recent printer cartridges that were discovered on board commercial airliners bound for the United States as well as the Christmas Day underwear bomber.
A Yemen-based al Qaeda network has now reported their new strategy regarding their quest to eliminate Americans is to force them to go broke.
The strategy involves several smaller attacks in an effort to hurt the U.S. economy and to create a security phobia that blankets the entire country. Al Qaeda dubbed the new mission “Operation Hemorrhage” and hoped to weaken America’s economy by adding security costs to the country’s budget.
According to the CBP agent there’s no proactive operations to detect future events, it’s just a media “dog and pony show” and more “knee jerk reactions.”
“DHS Officials look like a ‘deer in the headlights’ whenever I see them on TV after another attempted terror attack. The real problem will start when these terror plots become administered by talented radicals hell bent on hurting the U.S. – at the moment we have inept emotionally disturbed losers trying to attack America.”
Another area law enforcement agencies will need to explore is the “practice makes perfect” terrorist who will continue to skirt homeland security in search of weak regulations.
“When we have more terrorists surviving they are more likely to strike again. It’s when these non- suicide missions start that we are going to start paying a heavy, heavy price. Meanwhile, federal officers like myself working out in the field are forced to clam up, or lose our jobs and our ability to provide for our families, while federal bureaucrats who run DHS and CBP continue to mismanage our national security,” he finished.
Customs and Border Protection’s explanation
According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website an “officer’s border search authority is derived from federal statutes and regulations, including 19 C.F.R. 162.6, which states that, ‘All persons, baggage and merchandise arriving in the Customs territory of the United States from places outside thereof are liable to inspection by a CBP officer.’ Unless exempt by diplomatic status, all persons entering the United States, including U.S. citizens, are subject to examination and search by CBP officers.”
DHS ensures that CBP inspection procedures are designed to facilitate the entry of U.S. citizens and aliens who can readily establish their admissibility. Unfortunately, this process may inconvenience law-abiding citizens in order to detect those involved in illicit activities. “We are especially aware of how inconvenient and stressful the inspection process may be to those selected for inspection. In such cases we rely heavily on the patience, understanding, and cooperation of the traveler,” the CBP website stated.
Meanwhile, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) announced more stringent security standards for global air cargo last week, including “more extensive screening of cargo, mail and other goods prior to placing them onboard an aircraft.”
The Middle East connection
In an attempt to work with the United States after the most recent thwarted terrorist attempts, countries like Yemen have opted to cooperate with developed nations to improve security measures in their country.
“We are working closely with international partners – including the U.S. – on the incident,” Mohammed Albasha told the Christan Science Monitor (CSM), adding that no UPS cargo planes land or take off from Yemeni airports. http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2010/1029/Suspicious-UPS-FedEx-packages-raise-new-concerns-about-Al-Qaeda-in-Yemen
However CSM reported that an airport employee in Sanaa, Yemen, who remained anonymous, established that there are private airline flights from Sanaa to the United Kingdom that may leave a gapping hole in international security.
“The UPS store in Sanaa was staffed with one employee and one guard Friday evening and the employee refused to talk to the media,” CSM reported.
Border Security expert Andy Ramirez has testified to Congress on a number of occasions and admits the cargo issue has been around forever. “I was told unless the host government gives permission to search cargo, nothing can be checked. We have the technology and equipment overseas but if hosts nix it, it’s purely worthless and I hear many countries do refuse permission. My sources are customs cargo inspectors and I have information addressing this very issue on my website, AndyRamirez.com. In my report “Unjustifiable & Impeachable,” which outlines a live ordinance (missiles) with launchers as well as bombs that were never inspected when they entered the U.S. The cargo was later traced and found in Arkansas even though it should have been inspected in Houston, which was the reported final destination,” Ramirez said.
Expect the security to continue
Airport security hoopla shows no signs of waning as Napolitano and the TSA Administrator John S. Pistole have released statements, ensuring the aggressive security tactics will remain in place through the holiday season.
“We welcome feedback and comments on the screening procedures from the traveling public, and we will work to make them as minimally invasive as possible while still providing the security that the American people want and deserve. We are constantly evaluating and adapting our security measures, and as we have said from the beginning, we are seeking to strike the right balance between privacy and security. In all such security programs, especially those that are applied nation-wide, there is a continual process of refinement and adjustment to ensure that best practices are applied and that feedback and comment from the traveling public is taken into account. This has always been viewed as an evolving program that will be adapted as conditions warrant, and we greatly appreciate the cooperation and understanding of the American people,” TSA’s statement read.
The Sunday news shows also reported on the heavy handedness of the TSA and said the stepped-up security is a direct result of the Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, or the Christmas Day bomber. While America may have had an efficient system, television commentators concluded the U.S. now has an inefficient system despite all the money and technology available to the country.
Cargo Security Clearances
“Pre-shipment inspections (PSI) are required when mandated by the government of the importing country. Governments assert that pre-shipment inspections ensure that the price charged by the exporter reflects the true value of the goods, prevent substandard goods from entering their country, and mitigate attempts to avoid the payment of customs duties,” according to export.gov.
Even the wealthy country of Dubai sees the need to ramp-up security for all aspects of air travel. They have setup hi-tech equipment to clear cargo quickly and effectively. Salma Hareb, Chief Executive Officer, Economic Zones World, and Chairman of the Board, Dubai Logistics Corridor said their ambitious program creates the regions largest and best logistics hub in the Middle East.
At a FedEx hub, international shipments are sorted, scanned and loaded onto international flights. However, most foreign countries do not have access to a FedEx hub.
Nevertheless at FedEx overseas hubs “vital shipment information is keyed into a worldwide manifest database that is linked to computer systems operated by brokers and Customs officials in many countries. Even before the plane has taken off, or while it is in the air, Customs agents and brokers at the destination airport of entry can begin examining shipping manifests, query air waybill data if they need more details, assess duties and taxes, and select which shipments they wish to examine. By the time the plane arrives at its destination, many packages have already been cleared by Customs,” according to the FedEx website.
New legislation could offer a solution
The printer cartridge terror attempts lead a Democrat Congressman to push for more thorough screening of all cargo entering the United States.
“Al Qaeda continues to put aviation at the top of its terrorist target list, and our nation must close the cargo loophole that continues to put lives and our economy at risk. While we now require screening of 100 percent of air cargo transported on passenger planes, the thwarted Yemen bombing plot demonstrates that Al Qaeda is turning its attention to less protected all-cargo aircraft. Accordingly, we must respond through strengthened security measures,” Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-MA) said.
“On September 11, 2001, al Qaeda used box cutters; today, they are using boxes on all-cargo planes. We ignore this warning at our great peril,” Markey concluded.
While there may be many ways to address the cargo and passenger-related security process, for now it appears that the terrorists have won. Americans are furious when they witness, young children, senior citizens and seemingly innocent nuns being aggressively searched and DHS basically says “deal with it.”
A seasoned Border Patrol Agent just returned from a trip to Africa and explained the rest of the Westernized countries are not over reacting.
“I just returned from Africa via Amsterdam and didn’t experience any extensive pat down or x-ray screening. The folks from the ‘duty free’ shop have the run of the concourse gates. They deliver the stuff and I saw no x-ray being done of the packages. They deliver the duty free items fully wrapped, enclosed in duty free logo bags. They are delivered to the bursar at the jet-way ramp. I sure didn’t observe any x-ray capability along the jet way and I sure looked for it,” said the 30 year Border Patrol veteran.
Airline passengers can expect big delays at the airline terminals this week as well as read about TSA agents overstepping their boundaries on unsuspecting travelers, but will the flights really be as safe as they could be?
If TSA and DHS refuse to screen all the cargo placed in the belly of commercial airliners, then all the aggressive passenger searches will be for naught, as a ticking explosion from the planes underbelly will render TSA security checks moot.
To help Sam with his legal defense; samwolanyk.com