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American Shipper

TSA air cargo security plan includes inspecting foreign planes

TSA air cargo security plan includes inspecting foreign planes

   The U.S. Transportation Security Administration Tuesday published a plan aimed at securing all-cargo planes and cargo holds of passenger planes against terrorist attack.

   The plan, announced in a letter from Transportation Security Administrator Admiral James Loy, includes conducting random inspections on domestic and foreign commercial planes carrying cargo.

   The Air Cargo Security Strategic Plan is a 'multiphased, risk-based blueprint ' applying existing capabilities and pursuing emerging technologies,' Loy said in his letter.

   The TSA said the plan 'calls for prescreening all cargo shipments to identify suspicious cargo, inspecting all such cargo, establishing a database of vetted 'known' shippers, banning cargo from unknown shippers and strengthening the security of the air cargo operating areas at airports as well as the security standards for air cargo personnel.'

   The plan has 'strategic objectives:

   * 'A more formal vetting of shippers and Indirect Air Carriers applying for the 'known shipper' program and validation, respectively.' The TSA plans to centralize data for the known shipper and IAC validation programs to verify submitted information and compare it against terrorist intelligence. The agency also said it will improve compliance enforcement through strengthening field inspections and exploring programs such as the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection's Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism.

   * Identify elevated risk cargo through prescreening system similar to that used by Customs at the nation's borders. TSA will use terrorist watch lists and federal and commercial databases to identify high-risk shipments, and develop a 'risk score' for cargo shipments.

   This objective also includes random inspections on passenger aircraft that carry cargo and all-cargo planes, both foreign and domestic, for flights within, into and out of the United States. Foreign air cargo carriers will also be required to follow all security plans approved by the TSA.

   * Accelerate research and development of technology solutions and new inspection protocols for inspecting air cargo. TSA will use $55 from its fiscal year 2004 funding to assess the viability of using explosive detection systems used to screen passenger baggage or other systems that might detect threats to air cargo.

   * Strategies to secure air cargo perimeters, facilities, equipment and personnel, including enhanced background checks.

   Loy said the TSA plan addresses input from the industry, through the Aviation Security Advisory Committee's Cargo Working Groups, as well as issues raised by a General Accounting Office report in December 2002, and a September 2002 report by the Department of Transportation's Office of the Inspector General.

   The TSA said the plan will be supported by a notice pf proposed rulemaking, which the agency 'will publish in the coming months.'

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