TSA says Cuba must meet security standards for flights
Bart Jansen, USA TODAY 5:54 p.m. EDT July 13, 2016
WASHINGTON – The head of the Transportation Security Administration said
Wednesday that scheduled airline flights from Cuba wouldn't be allowed
in the U.S. until security is as tight as any other foreign airport
sending flights to this country.
The Transportation Department approved flights from 10 Cuban airports,
with the first scheduled to arrive in September. But some lawmakers have
questioned whether Cuba's airports will meet U.S. security standards or
potentially become a pipeline for bombs and terrorists.
"Before we allow a flight to come here directly from Cuba, we will
ensure that they do in fact meet all the requirements we put in place at
last points of departure," TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger told
reporters after a speech at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for
Airlines and foreign airports that send flights directly to the U.S.
must provide the names of passengers and crewmembers to TSA, which
scrutinizes them for security risks. Passenger luggage and cargo
screening must also meet U.S. standards.
"We don't change the requirements country to country," Neffenger said.
"The baseline is: You have to meet an equivalent level of security if
you want to fly to the United States."
Reps. John Katko, R-N.Y.; Richard Hudson, R-N.C.; and Henry Cuellar,
D-Texas, are skeptical. They introduced legislation Tuesday to block the
Cuba flights until TSA reports to Congress that Cuban equipment and
worker training meet U.S. standards.
The Government Accountability Office would also have to confirm security
standards, under the bill. The lawmakers also want an agreement for air
marshals, who fly armed and undercover to thwart terrorists, to be
allowed on flights from Cuba.
Katko said lax security at a country long hostile to the U.S. could be a
Commercial charter flights have been ferrying travelers back and forth
to the island 90 miles from Florida for decades. But scheduled flights
were abolished a few years after communists seized control of the
government in 1959.
President Obama is working to restore relations with Cuba. A February
agreement reached between the U.S. and Cuban governments allows up to
110 daily flights from the U.S. to 10 Cuban cities.
"We want to make sure that the Cubans have the resources to do that,"
Neffenger said of ramping up the number of flights.
Another concern lawmakers have voiced is the lack of full-body scanners,
which can detect non-metallic bombs, at some foreign airports. But TSA
officers will occasionally pat-down travelers or swab them to detect
traces of explosives.
"There are lots of ways to screen people effectively," said Neffenger,
who didn't specify how Cuba could meet U.S. standards. "As you know even
in our own country, we have airports where we have walk-through
metal-detectors only. We don't have (full-body scanners). We do other
things to compensate for that."
Source: TSA says Cuba must meet security standards for flights -