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Sunday, December 22, 2019

US firm fined $1 million for failing to scan air cargo

The United States is one country that is concerned about its security and implements its policies strictly.  It might appear that at times they are fastidious but being a stickler to rules is quality and only that will ensure that there are no leakages or lapses !!

Millions throng Airports and there is a need for stricter vigil as not only the facilities are extremely costly but more importantly, they are the gateways for international people.  Airport security refers to techniques and methods used in protecting airports and aircraft from crime.  The acts of terrorism and incidence of hijacking etc., increase the need for such protection.  Airport security attempts to prevent any threats or potentially dangerous situations from arising or entering the country. If airport security does succeed in this, then the chances of any dangerous situations, illegal items or threats entering into both aircraft, country or airport are greatly reduced. There is multi-layered security set up in various airports.

As a passenger you would have observed that your entry and movement into the airport are monitored, checked and controlled.  Then the baggage that is to be carried is scanned, checked and taken over by the carriers.  The hand-carried bags, known as hand luggage could be more intensely searched and persons subjected to body frisking as the individual would have access to these even during the flight.   Apart from terrorism angle, there are drugs and narcotics which are prohibited into being carried into countries.

The Security arrangements are improving after the hi-profile hijackings of the last century and terrorist incidents in the recent past.  From minimalistic checking, came the introduction of sky marshalls, then the screening of passengers and their baggage.  After terrorism raised its ugly head, the measures have become more stringent.  There are tougher regulations, such as limiting the number of and types of items passengers could carry on board aircraft and requiring increased screening for passengers who fail to present a government-issued photo ID.  In the US, the  Aviation and Transportation Security Act generally required that by November 19, 2002 all passenger screening must be conducted by Federal employees. As a result, passenger and baggage screening is now provided by the Transportation Security Administration(TSA), part of the Department of Homeland Security. Provisions to improve the technology for detecting explosives were included in the Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. Often, security at category X airports, the U.S. largest and busiest as measured by the volume of passenger traffic.  Most airports have advanced systems that have newly developed technology such as automated carry-on scanning, automatic biological pathogen detection, millimeter-wave full-body scanning and a quadrupole resonance carpet that would detect threats in shoes without having to take them off. The SRT program also works with smartcard technology along with fingerprint technology to help verify passengers. The fingerprint scanner also detects for explosive material traces on the person's fingers.

With all possible advanced technology, fingerprints, biometrics, facial scans, still, the threat is real.  Understand that there is a program called  Project Hostile Intent,  where capabilities are being sought to identify deception and hostile intent in real-time, on the spot, using non-invasive sensors. The goal is a prototype technology that can equal or exceed the abilities of today’s screening methods—without ever impeding the flow of travellers.

At such a juncture comes the news of a US firm being fined $1 million for failing to scan air cargo.  Press reports state that OHL Solutions, formerly Activair, has been fined US$1 million for intentionally failing to screen air cargo it shipped through Indianapolis International Airport for explosives.  Investigators said the company had falsified records to cover up the fact that hundreds of unscreened packages were shipped during a roughly nine-month period in 2010 as bellyhold cargo on passenger services.  The US 9/11 Act requires 100% of cargo to be screened for explosives.  In addition to the fine, three managers from Activair face five years in prison and $225,000 in fines. 

The Press Release  dated Feb 8, 2012 of Department of Justice mentions of the largest ever penalty against Cargo company for intentional security violations.  Issued at Indianopolis, the report issued as by  Joseph H. Hogsett, United States Attorney, announced that  OHL Solutions, Inc., formerly doing business as ActivAir, Inc., agreed to a $1 million civil fine and other remedial steps for shirking their responsibility to screen cargo for explosives that was  destined for passenger aircraft prior to December 2010. 

This  is reportedly follows a lengthy investigation by the Transportation  Security Administration (TSA).  Hogsett is quoted as stating “When it comes to national security, there is no room for error, and we have no tolerance for shortcuts,”  “This record-setting fine, and the important corrective actions taken  by the company, underscore our dedication to ensuring the safety of all those who travel through  America’s airports.” The United States Attorney’s Office alleged that prior to December 2010, employees working for the New York-based company’s Indianapolis facility engaged in a systemic pattern of record-keeping violations by failing to properly screen for explosives 100% of air cargo as required by their security program. It is alleged that the employees continued to certify that the air cargo had been screened, which was later shipped on passenger aircraft.This case represents the largest regulatory fine ever assessed by TSA against a cargo entity for intentionally violating TSA security requirements.

Claimed to be the  diligent work of TSA regulatory inspectors and criminal investigators, in conjunction with the Department of Justice, this case  is expected to send a strong message that premeditated skirting of TSA security measures can lead to serious consequences for both individual employees and the corporations that employ them,”.  As a result of the TSA investigation, three Indianapolis residents, have each agreed to plead guilty to an Information charging them with conspiracy to commit federal reporting and recordkeeping violations.

The communiqué also states that  “ActivAir has acknowledged the serious nature of the misconduct that occurred in its  Indianapolis branch office, offered its complete cooperation in connection with the TSA  investigation, and accepted full responsibility for the actions of its employees.  It further states that an information is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial  at which the government must prove guilt beyond a  reasonable doubt.  

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
Feb.13, 2012.

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