Air cargo security policies need to be reviewed
What could have been disaster was averted when American and foreign intelligence officials found explosives in hidden packages shipped from Yemen headed for the United States.
After being tipped off to what allegedly might have been one of al-Qaeda’s first attempts to deliver a bomb through the mail, intelligence officials realized a gaping hole in our national security policy.
Despite this achievement, it forces us to review our policies as to whether our security can be more effective when handling other attempts in the future.
Plenty of propositions have been made, but it’s not clear which is optimal. Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) proposed a bill requiring that 100 percent of freight on cargo planes be screened, stating, “It is time for the shipping industry and the business community to accept the reality that more needs to be done to secure cargo planes so that they cannot be turned into delivery systems for bombs targeting our country.”
Against the challenges of searching every package, the 100 percent goal was finally met August of this year. While it’s a commendable effort, the Transportation Security Administration states that 50 percent of cargo screened is based on “estimates rather than actual data as required by law.”
In a matter of national security, such a high reliance on estimates is insufficient, and proves while the policy is far reaching, it is not necessarily the most effective.
The answer to improved security is not a search everything solution, but one toward becoming more efficient and discerning when searching. The Department of Homeland Security’s risk rating system currently only used for ships is a good step toward this goal. It uses the data gathered on the country of origin, the location where the container was packed, the seller, the buyer and where on the ship the container is stored to determine an appropriate risk rating. The higher the rating, the more inspection is placed on a package, but this method can cause officials to overlook packages that may not fit their risk criteria.
If these procedures were integrated by searching a majority of packages with a priority list in place, it would save time, help remove some of the guesswork and maintain the thoroughness required of the job.
Airport security is important, but we must have a wide view of the situation and make sure that when airport security increases, it does not suffer in other areas that terrorists will be quick to abuse.
This is a matter Congress needs to address quickly if the call was that close and has so many worried.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the bombs had “all the hallmarks of al-Qaeda.” Sally Leivesley, a terrorism expert, said the bomb appeared to be “sophisticated” and of a size that could have caused “devastation.”
If this truly is the first of many more professional and advanced attempts, then security-wise we should leave nothing unseen against a new wave of threats. We must remain dedicated to staying on top of the terrorists.
We must let terrorists know, and assure ourselves, that whatever the plan or its degree of professionalism — it will be stopped.
Marcus Smith is an English freshman and may be reached at [email protected].