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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 29, 2009


Passengers From Flights Abroad Are Supposed To Get Separate Security Checks, But Past Security Reviews for Foreign Airports Show Inadequate U.S. Personnel, Screenings

As Part of President Obama's Security Review, Schumer Says Administration Should Focus on Overseas Flights Bound for the U.S.

Schumer: If Countries Don't Comply Sufficiently With U.S. Screening Standards, Penalties Must Be Implemented

As President Obama calls for a comprehensive review of airport security just days after a failed terrorist attack on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today is calling on the administration to do a separate, targeted review of foreign airport security of U.S. bound flights. Schumer says that after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab nearly detonated an explosive device on an airplane on its way to Detroit from Amsterdam on Christmas Day, and after “Shoe Bomber” Richard Reid attempted to detonate a bomb in his shoe on a flight from Paris to Miami in 2001, it is becoming clear that there are still gaping holes in transportation security, particularly when would-be terrorists first board in foreign airports, that must be filled immediately. Schumer says that while passengers from flights abroad are supposed to get separate security checks, past security reviews of foreign airports have shown there are inadequate U.S. personnel and screenings. Schumer says that if countries do not comply sufficiently with U.S. screening standards, penalties must be implemented against those countries. Schumer says that the TSA must increase the number of Transportation Security Administration Representatives (TSARs) that are stationed around the world. Schumer also says that in the wake of this latest terrorist attempt, the TSA nominee must be confirmed as soon as possible.


“Due to gaping loopholes in both air transportation security and intelligence sharing, a gravely serious terrorist attack against the United States occurred on Christmas Day -- and the time to plug those holes is now,” Schumer said. “While government officials are taking the right steps to protect the American people, it is clear that foreign airports remain a gateway for terrorists to travel to the United States and put innocent lives in danger. It is time for a targeted, top-to-bottom review of foreign airport security procedures so we can ensure this would-be springboard for a terror attack is shut down.”


Schumer is urging the TSA to increase the number of TSARs that are stationed around the world after security reviews have shown that there are alarming holes in transportation security at foreign airports for US-bound travelers. Not only are there inadequate numbers of U.S. personnel, but also inadequate screenings, which allowed terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to pass undetected through screenings.


TSARs ensure foreign air carriers are complying with U.S. regulations, conduct airport assessments, consult with the host country on aviation security matters, serve as on-side coordinators for TSA in the event of a terrorist attack, and ensure there is alignment and consistency between foreign and domestic carriers.


"Would be terrorists will continue to use foreign airports as a weak link to launch attacks against the United States unless we take prompt action to close them down. The bottom line is that we simply do not have enough TSA boots on the ground in foreign airports to make sure the screenings happen, and that they happen in a rigorous way. That is why we must immediately ramp up the number of TSA personnel dedicated to vetting US-bound passengers at foreign airports," said Senator Schumer.


However, there are not nearly enough TSARs deployed worldwide to make certain that foreign airports are in compliance and operating at an appropriate level of security.  Currently there are only 21 TSARs responsible for coordinating and conducting security assessments at more than 300 foreign airports and repair stations in more than 100 different countries.


Schumer is also pushing for penalties to be implemented against countries that do not comply sufficiently with U.S. airport screening standards. Schumer says the penalties for non-compliance should be as follows: if the country is part of the visa waiver program, there should be very serious consideration as to whether the non-compliance is serious enough to merit revocation of the visa waiver program. If the country is not part of visa-waiver program, then enhanced screening will have to be done before anyone is given a visa to travel into US from that country.


Schumer added that in the wake of the latest terror attempt on an airplane, TSA Administrator Nominee Erroll Southers must be confirmed as soon as possible.


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