NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Gaping Security Holes in Air Freight Shipments

May 24, 2002

In October, a confidential Federal Aviation Administration report warned that terrorists could easily slip a bomb-laden package into an air cargo shipment and take down an aircraft -- passengers and all. Under current security procedures, such a strategy by terrorists would be relatively risk-free, experts assert.

  • In 2001, U.S. aircrafts carried 20.11 billion ton-miles of cargo -- 60 percent of it in passenger planes.
  • Only 2 to 4 percent of that is being screened by humans, machines or bomb-sniffing dogs.
  • So-called "known shippers" -- companies which have been shipping goods regularly since 1999 -- are responsible for guaranteeing that their cargo contains no bombs.
  • But it would be relatively simple for a terrorist go get a job with a "known shipper" and place a bomb in an air freight container.

The government does not require shippers to do specific fingerprint or background checks on employees.

Security specialists point out that containers that can withstand a bomb blast are available and they could be placed on the entire U.S. passenger fleet for less than $300 million. But critics charge the cargo industry has been lackadaisical in its attitude toward such suggestions.

Source: Editorial, "Unchecked Jet Freight Leaves Holes in Air Safety," USA Today, May 24, 2002.

For text


Browse more articles on Government Issues