Since the events of 911, airport security has been an important issue. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA)" is responsible for ensuring the security of all modes of transportation, including cargo placed aboard airplaines and particularly focuses on passenger-carrying planes" (TSA). The TSA is part of the Department of Homeland Security. According to the latest information available, the TSA employs 620 Cargo Transportation Security Inspectors who are exclusively dedicated to the oversight of air cargo. One hundred twenty of these are canine teams. The numbers of security inspectors and canine teams has increased significantly since 2006 (TSA).
Obviously, no one wants to see another tragedy. Terrorism continues to be a threat and security measures must try to keep pace with ever-changing strategies that terrorists try to employ. There has been much in the news about passenger screening, x-ray technology, and rights to privacy. Passengers do not present the only possible means through which terrorists can accomplish their deadly missions. For this reason, air cargo security is also a focus for those seeking to keep people safe in the sky and on the ground.
Millions of packages travel the world by airfreight every day ("How air cargo is checked," 2010, p. 48). ABC News reported in late 2010 that nearly 32 billion pounds of cargo is flown into the United States annually (Harris, 2010). A package can take several routes before it is put on a plane. Approximately one-third of U.S.-bound cargo is on passenger flights, with the cargo going directly to the plane. While some companies pass screening responsibilities to air carries, about 1,200 U.S. companies were certified, as of October 30, 2010, to do their own screenings with oversight by the TSA.
Whether cargo is transported within, into, or out of the United States, the majority of it (84%, according to Time magazine) travels on all-cargo planes. For security reasons, the screening requirements are not disclosed. Making this information public would provide potential terrorists valuable knowledge that they could then use to circumvent security systems. Much of the world's airfreight is handled by third parties. The TSA has no authority over overseas carriers, some of whom do not always screen. For those third party handlers who do business in the U.S., the TSA is pushing for them to open certified scanning facilities.
Beginning May 1, 2010, 75% of all air cargo on passenger planes in the U.S. had to be screened under the TSA's then-new Certified Cargo Screening Program (CCSP). CCSP-certified facilities are required to have a multi-layered security program that includes abides by the standards set forth in the 9/11 Act (signed into law in 2007), ensuring chain of custody, strict access controls, security coordinators, verification of the credentials of key personnel, and TSA inspections. The CCSP was a tremendous undertaking, and one that is not fully in place. Time magazine reported in November 2010 that eighty percent of cargo put on passenger planes is screened ("How air cargo is checked, 2010, p. 49). It is a long way toward ensuring the security of the cargo, but there is still 20% that is not screened. The TSA had called for 100% by August 2010, but that did not happen. It is a gamble we take as a nation because security is expensive in terms of work-hours needed for screenings and the time delays that screenings cause. It is a difficult situation that can be remedied only with the development of more effective and efficient screening techniques. Charles Slepian, CEO of Foreseeable Risk Analysis Center, says it is essential that the nation makes the investment in the proper technology to do the job (Harris, 2010). Gamma ray machines, which can see through steel and detect explosives, are expensive, but they are needed. According to ABC News' Jeremy Hubbard, who quoted an anonymous source, all the TSA agents and trained canines cannot "even scratch the surface" when it comes to checking air cargo for explosives (Harris, 2010). One cannot put a price on human life, yet there is the practical question of who will pay to protect it?
There are several techniques already in use. The most low-tech method is the physical search: airline, freight and government personnel can open and…