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Groups recommend beefing up air cargo security

From Patty Davis

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Air Transportation
Transportation Security Administration

ARLINGTON, Virginia (CNN) -- Three industry groups are recommending the Transportation Security Administration upgrade air cargo security since most cargo on planes is never screened.

For cargo on passenger planes, the groups urged beefing up the "known shipper" program by developing a federal database to check more thoroughly each shipper before its cargo is placed on a plane.

Currently, a shipper must be registered with the Transportation Security Administration. The airline or cargo company checks out the shipper to make sure it is legitimate. Airlines cannot carry cargo from a company or person they do not know or who is not a "known shipper."

The industry groups -- representing airline pilots, airlines, cargo companies and victims of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, among others -- make up the Aviation Security Advisory Committee.

They also recommended changes for cargo airlines. Chief among them: improving perimeter security at air cargo facilities, instituting random screening for anyone with access to ramps, securing unattended aircraft and controlling access to cargo sitting on the ramp.

The Transportation Security Administration will consider the recommendations as it develops a strategic plan for cargo. That plan is expected by the end of October. The agency expects to make its own proposal to upgrade cargo security by the end of the year.

"This is an important part of the process. It will help to contribute and enhance cargo security," said agency spokesman Brian Turmail.

But not everyone was in agreement with the recommendations.

Capt. James Shilling of the Coalition of Air Line Pilots Associations said, "I don't think it goes far enough. We want all cargo screened. ... We screen the passengers. We have to screen the cargo. We have to know what's in the box."

Security concerns about cargo grew last month when a New York man shipped himself inside a crate to his parents' home near Dallas, Texas. Charles McKinley wasn't detected inside the crate until he arrived at his destination and kicked out the side of the container.

Labels on the crate indicated it contained computer equipment.

Authorities were considering federal charges for McKinley.

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