Browse By:

Sunday November 18, 2018 Login |Register

A Project of

sponsored by

Keeping Bombs Off Planes: Securing Air Cargo, Aviation’s Soft Underbelly

Bookmark and Share Report Misuse or Glitches


At a recent hearing at Guantanamo, Khalid Sheikh Muhammad took responsibility for the so called Bojinka plot, a plan to use terrorists posing as passengers to blow up a dozen 747s simultaneously in 1995. Less well known is what the 9/11 mastermind’s nephew, Ramzi Yousef (and the operational director of Bojinka) did when this first plot was foiled. He tried twice to place bombs in cargo shipments on airliners bound for the United States before he was arrested. If a terrorist attempts such a plot again, there is an unacceptably high chance of success. Why? Because most cargo that flies on passenger flights receives far less scrutiny than the people and bag­gage traveling on the same airplane.

It is obviously impossible for TSA to effectively monitor the tens of millions of employees in this supply chain, which is why Congress’ legislative choice of words is significant. A Senate bill passed in March 2007 would require the TSA to “screen” all domestic air cargo carried on passenger aircraft within three years. A comparable House measure, approved in its first 100 hours in January, would man­date that TSA “inspect” such shipments.

The right answer is actually in between the two, but getting it right will require a broader focus, take longer and cost more than Congress currently envisions.