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"Senate Panel Clears Cargo Security Bill"

Friday, March 14, 2003

Senate Panel Clears Cargo Security Bill

The Senate Commerce Committee on March 13 approved air cargo security
legislation (S.165) that includes provisions allowing cargo pilots to carry
guns and requiring the Secretary of Homeland Security to disclose the impact
on traveler privacy and civil liberties of the Computer Assisted Passenger
Prescreening System II (CAPPS II). The bill would mandate several steps to
improve air cargo security, including requiring the Transportation Security
Administration (TSA) to develop a strategic plan to ensure that all air
cargo is screened, inspected, or otherwise made secure. A similar measure
has been introduced in the House. 

CAPPS II, now in development, is a cornerstone of the government's strategy
to electronically confirm the identities of passengers and to pinpoint
foreign terrorists or persons with terrorist connections before they can
board U.S. aircraft. Lockheed Martin was recently awarded a contract to
assist the TSA in developing the program technology infrastructure for CAPPS
II and will administer it for the agency through a five-year contract. The
system is to be designed to confirm a passenger's identity within five
seconds and score any potential terrorism-related threat to aviation. Delta
has acknowledged that it will test the system this year at three undisclosed

The development of CAPPS II has generated controversy, however, with critics
charging that it could violate civil rights. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)
introduced the CAPPS II amendment to the air cargo bill, saying it marked
the beginning of a debate on how the U.S. can fight terrorism without
harming civil liberties. 

TSA head James Loy issued a statement March 11 defending CAPPS II, saying,
"All views will be carefully considered as TSA develops the protocols that
define the system as well as the privacy strategy. In addition, briefings
are held regularly with congressional leaders regarding CAPPS II

Further, Loy said he would create a separate oversight board for CAPPS II.
Loy noted that, "Once CAPPS II is in operation, travelers may well notice
that fewer passengers will be selected for additional screening after they
go through the security checkpoint. 'Enhanced' screening of individuals who
clearly pose no threat of terrorism will be eliminated." He said CAPPS II
will be implemented throughout the U.S. commercial aviation system by the
summer of 2004.

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