Attorney General John Ashcroft will focus this week on the vulnerability of materials placed on U.S. passenger and cargo planes, Time magazine reports. He is expected to disclose details of a frightening breach of airline safety in which hazardous material was illegally put on a plane run by Emery Airlines, a cargo firm that went out of business in 2001. Aviation specialists cite a fear that terrorists will try to sneak hazardous materials on cargo planes.
Experts say getting cargo on planes without being inspected is far too easy, Time says. Critics say the government has not taken the potential threats to cargo seriously. Virtually none of the cargo carried on passenger planes is inspected, and dedicated cargo planes — the largest aircraft — often fly with huge loads that are never checked.
An industry group this week will present its recommendations for improving cargo security to the Transportation Security Administration. Uder the “known shipper” policy, most packages are sent without checking merely because companies “know” the shipper.
Capt. Paul Rancatore of the Allied Pilots Association Security Committee, complains that “Cargo is still completely vulnerable.” Rancatore and others tried to have all cargo inspected and packages “profiled.” TSA chief James Loy says technology does not exist to make screening all cargo practical.