GAO Gives Mixed Review On Agency's Effectiveness
The General Accounting Office (GAO)
and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appeared before the
Senate Commerce Committee Tuesday to report on progress in making
air and surface transportation more secure... and it's evident more
work remains, reports Helicopter Association International.
HAI notes GAO officials told Senators some progress has been
made, but more needs to be done... especially in the areas of air
cargo security and passenger screening.
Senators seemed skeptical about the Transportation Security
Administration (TSA) meeting report deadlines and a new law
requiring inspection of 50 percent of all air cargo in 18 months
and 100 percent in three years.
Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) called the air cargo screening
situation "a major gap in our system."
Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) noted a regulation on screening
of workers at overseas aircraft maintenance and repair stations was
due by 2004. She asked why there is no sense of urgency, saying it
is a disaster waiting to happen.
"There is no rule requiring even background checks," McCaskill
said, reports The Nation. "We might as well have terrorists working
under the hood of these airplanes."
Kip Hawley (right), head of the Transportation Security
Administration (TSA) told Senators a rule is being worked on, but
gave no additional details.
Perhaps the most intensive grilling came from West Virginia
Senator Jay Rockefeller... who clearly had Hawley in his
"I am constantly amazed by the asymmetry of all the people
getting stopped while going through with their carry-ons," said
Rockefeller, who leads the Senate's Intelligence Committee. "Why
aren't we looking at checked luggage?"
Hawley replied there was a plan in place to check half of all
checked bags within 18 months -- and all such bags by 2011. "Good
luck," Rockefeller quipped. "You got a whole list of things to do
and I don't believe you can get them done."
Clearly on the defensive, Hawley replied TSA has 120 different
tasks before it... and tries "take them all seriously."
Rockefeller remained, as they say, unconvinced.