- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 17, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The government yesterday announced new security requirements for air cargo that include criminal background checks for more than 100,000 airline and freight workers and screeners to check packages delivered to airport ticket counters.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said it also will use more bomb-sniffing dogs to screen freight that is shipped by plane and that it soon will finish hiring 300 new air-cargo inspectors, which Congress included in the agency’s budget this year.

“We have set a solid foundation for a major segment of the transportation network,” said TSA chief Kip Hawley. “In the time-sensitive and dynamic air-cargo industry, a layered security approach is essential to thwarting would-be terrorists.”

Cargo pilots long have complained that the government focuses its efforts on protecting passenger airliners from terrorist attacks, leaving cargo planes vulnerable. They point out that cargo planes also could be seized by terrorists and used as weapons.

Some lawmakers have criticized the Bush administration for screening airline passengers and their luggage but not inspecting the cargo that is carried on the same plane.

The air-freight industry, though, does not want commerce to be impeded.

The TSA’s long-awaited plan — it originally was proposed in November 2004 — includes new regulations for restricting access to sections of airports used for loading and unloading cargo.

It also requires the employees of more than 4,000 freight forwarders — agents who accept packages and arrange shipment — to attend security training courses designed by the TSA.

The TSA has relied on a Known Shipper program to make sure bombs or weapons do not make their way onto passenger planes.

Air-cargo companies must register with the government and be approved by the TSA before they are allowed to send cargo on passenger airliners.

The TSA said it will consolidate 4,000 Known Shipper lists into one so that it can keep closer track of companies that ship cargo on passenger planes.

The agency said that in recent weeks it banned three companies from sending cargo on passenger aircraft.

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