DHS Achieves Trusted Traveler Program Milestones

product_tsaprecheck_hero_750x200The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recently achieved two major milestones for its trusted traveler programs. The Transportation Security Administration Pre✓ application program, which began in December 2013, has now enrolled more than half a million travelers.

Additionally, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has enrolled more than three million users in their trusted traveler programs: Global Entry, NEXUS and SENTRI. Together, all of these DHS trusted traveler programs provide an improved passenger experience, while enhancing security and increasing system-wide efficiencies.

TSA Pre✓ allows low-risk travelers to experience faster, more efficient screening at 118 U.S. airports nationwide currently. TSA Pre✓ is an expedited screening program that allows pre-approved airline travelers to leave on their shoes, light outerwear and belt, keep their laptop in its case and their 3-1-1 compliant liquids/gels bag in a carry-on in select screening lanes.

The TSA Pre✓ application program allows U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to directly enroll in TSA Pre✓. Once approved, travelers will receive a “Known Traveler Number” and will have the opportunity to utilize TSA Pre✓ lanes at select security checkpoints when flying on a participating carrier: Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Sun Country Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways and Virgin America.

Upon arrival in the United States from abroad, Global Entry members are able to bypass the traditional CBP inspection lines and use an automated kiosk. With more than 70,000 new applicants each month, travelers enrolled in this program can scan their passport and fingerprints, answer the customs declaration questions using the kiosk’s touch screen and proceed with a receipt — the whole process only takes about one minute. Launched in 2008, as a pilot program, Global Entry is now a permanent program and has 51 locations in the U.S. and at CBP Preclearance stations in Canada. These locations serve 99 percent of incoming travelers to the United States. Source: dhs.gov

Nairobi Airport gutted by Blaze

A small fire at Kenya‘s main airport swelled into a roaring inferno Wednesday that destroyed part of East Africa’s largest aviation hub and hampered air travel across the continent. Firefighters were desperately short of equipment in an area where the county government apparently lacks a single working fire engine. Crews needed hours to get the flames under control and at one point resorted to a line of officers passing water buckets.

The early morning blaze gutted the arrival hall, forcing authorities to close the entire airport and airlines to cancel dozens of flights. The flames also charred airport banks and foreign exchange bureaus. No serious injuries were reported. Michael Kamau, the cabinet secretary for transport and infrastructure, said the fire began at 5 a.m. in the immigration section of the arrivals hall.

The fire broke out on the 15th anniversary of the bombings by al-Qaida of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, in neighboring Tanzania. No terror connection to the fire was immediately evident, but the blaze revived long-standing safety concerns about Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

Kenya’s anti-terror police boss, Boniface Mwaniki, said he was waiting for more information before completely ruling out terrorism. Authorities last week shut down several duty-free shops at the airport, and some Kenyan media reports speculated that disgruntled parties from the forced closings may have had motive to carry out an arson attack. No government official made such an accusation Wednesday.

International airlines, including South African Airways, Etihad and Emirates, cancelled flights to Nairobi. Qatar Air said its Nairobi flights were being rerouted to the Kilimanjaro airport in Tanzania. No U.S. carriers fly direct to Nairobi. Delta Air Lines, based in Atlanta, tried to open such a route in 2009, but the Transportation Security Administration rejected the plan because of security concerns.

The domestic and departure terminals, which are separated from the arrivals hall by a road, were undamaged. By the end of the day, the airport re-opened for domestic and cargo flights but remained closed to international flights. Officials planned to convert a domestic-flight area into an international terminal for the time being.

Nairobi County does not have a single working fire engine, the Daily Nation, a Nairobi newspaper, reported last month. One engine, the paper said, was auctioned in 2009 because the county had not paid a $100 repair bill. An Associated Press reporter at the airport Wednesday saw uniformed officers line up with buckets in hand, apparently to battle the blaze. Many of the units that battled Wednesday’s fire were from private security firms and had to fight airport traffic to get there.

Nairobi is the capital of East Africa’s largest economy, but public-sector services such as police and fire departments are hobbled by small budgets, corrupt money managers and outdated equipment or a complete lack of equipment. A top government official at the scene of the fire said an initial assessment shows that a complacent response helped a small fire grow into an uncontrollable conflagration. Some airport fire engines were not filled with water and others did not have personnel to drive them, said the official, who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to release details of an ongoing investigation.

Inbound flights were diverted to the coastal city of Mombasa, he said. Other flights were diverted to Dar es Salaam, the Kenyan cities of Eldoret and Kisumu and Entebbe, Uganda, according to Kenya’s Red Cross.

Kenya Airways, the country’s flagship carrier, diverted five flights to Mombasa and said all of its passengers in transit were being moved to hotels. The airline reported that one passenger and one employee suffered from smoke inhalation. Source: The Huffington Post

WTC developer says United and American airlines negligent

While American’s are accustomed to a period of mourning and remembrance over this time, it seems as though property mogul – Larry Silverstein – is more concerned with lost profits than the fate of a few thousand lost souls resulting from the 9/11 tragedy. Perhaps the US Airforce should be cited for not scrambling fighter jets quick enough to intercept the rogue planes. Moreover, why not cite the ‘negligent’ customs and immigration officials of the DHS for failing to intercept the rogue hijackers. A strange case of selective blame, indeed!

Most of the lawsuits arising from the hijacked plane attacks on the World Trade Center 11 years ago have been settled, but one demanding that United Airlines and American Airlines be held liable for loss of property and business could go to trial.

Two recent rulings by a federal judge in New York denying the airlines’ bid to dismiss the lawsuit over a narrow insurance dispute have opened the door to the entire case ending up in the hands of a jury. At issue is whether the two airlines and other defendants should pay additional damages to Larry Silverstein, the leaseholder of the World Trade Center property, beyond what he has already received from his own insurer.

Silverstein’s World Trade Center Properties blamed United, now United Continental Holdings Inc, and American Airlines, for breaches of security. The 2008 lawsuit also named aircraft manufacturer Boeing Co, the Massachusetts Port Authority, which manages Logan International Airport, and security companies.

The lawsuit claimed that negligence allowed hijackers to board two planes at the Boston airport and use them as missiles to destroy the 110-story twin towers and cause other buildings on the site in lower Manhattan to burn down. Before Sept. 11, the airlines and the security companies they hired oversaw security at airports and on planes. That responsibility now lies with the Transportation Security Administration, a government agency.

Silverstein is seeking $8.4 billion in damages for loss of property and lost business, even though U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein has limited the amount to the $2.8 billion Silverstein paid for the leases. The lawsuit is among the last pieces of litigation resulting from the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, which killed more than 3,000 people in New York, the Pentagon outside Washington, and Pennsylvania. Read the full article here! Source: Reuters.

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Adoption of container tracking will accelerate in the coming years

According to a new research report from Berg Insight, the number of active remote container tracking units deployed on inter-modal shipping containers was 77,000 in Q4-2011. Growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 66.9 percent, this number is expected to reach 1.0 million by 2016. The penetration rate of remote tracking systems in the total population of containers is estimated to increase from 0.4 percent in 2011 to 3.6 percent in 2016. Berg Insight’s definition of a real-time container tracking solution is a system that incorporates data logging, satellite positioning and data communication to a back-office application.

The market for container tracking solutions is still in its early stage. Aftermarket solutions mounted on high value cargo and refrigerated containers will be the first use cases to adopt container tracking. Orbcomm has after recent acquisitions of Startrak and PAR LMS emerged as the largest vendor of wireless container tracking devices with solutions targeting refrigerated containers. Qualcomm, ID Systems and Telular are prominent vendors focusing on inland transportation in North America, which is so far the most mature market for container tracking solutions. PearTrack Systems, Honeywell Global Tracking, EPSa and Kirsen Global Security are examples of companies offering dedicated solutions targeting the global end-to-end container transport chain.

Ever since the events of 9/11, there have been a lot of activities to bring container tracking solutions to the market according to the report. Only now technology advancement, declining hardware prices and market awareness are starting to come together to make remote container tracking solutions attractive. Container telematics can help supply chain operators to comply with regulations and meet the high demands on security, information visibility and transportation efficiency that comes with global supply chains. Source: Berg Insight

Shortage of Helium – challenges for Cargo Security and potential contractual dilemma for Security Agencies

While the topic of non-intrusive detection equipment there has been much-a-do about the shortage of helium over the last 18 months, the impact this may have for existing investments in scanner and radiation detection equipment poses an even more ominous question, particularly those countries and agencies having already invested in US-based technology.

The demand for nuclear detectors exploded (if you’ll pardon the expression) from 8,000l/year to ten times that in 2008 due to increased efforts to stop nuclear proliferation and terrorism. But production of helium-3, a critical element in nuclear detection technology, has not kept pace and existing stockpiles are quickly dwindling. Alternatives are currently in the early stages of development and researchers have found several promising leads; when an alternative is found, current radiation detection equipment will have to be replaced with the new technology.

Helium-3 is a decay product of tritium, a heavy isotope of hydrogen used to enhance the yield of nuclear weapons, but whose production stopped in 1988. The half-life decay of tritium is about 12 years, and the U.S. supply for helium-3 is fed by harvesting the gas from dismantled or refurbished nuclear weapons. However, production of helium-3 hasn’t kept pace with the exponential demand sparked by the Sept. 11 attacks.

Projected demand for the non-radioactive gas in 2010 is said to be more than 76,000 litres per year, while U.S. production is a mere 8,000 litres annually, and U.S. total supply rests at less than 48,000 litres. This shortage wasn’t identified until a workshop put on by the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Physics in August 2008. Between 2004 and 2008, about 25,000 litres of helium-3 annually was entering the U.S. from Russia. Right around the time of the August workshop, Russia decided it was “reserving its supplies for domestic use.

Helium-3 is primarily used in security applications as it is highly sensitive to the neutrons that are emitted by plutonium. Roughly 80 percent of helium-3 supplies are used for national security. Since 9/11 demand for radiation detectors increased sharply, however production failed to increase. The shortage is reported to severely effect even the handheld and backpack detectors used by the U.S. Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, and Transportation Security Administration. A representative of General Electric Energy, which manufactures radiation detectors, said, “Up to six different neutron-detection technologies may be required to replace helium-3 detectors” for its four main uses and “[a] drop-in replacement technology for helium-3 does not exist today.” When an acceptable alternative is found, current radiation detection equipment will have to be replaced with the new technology. In the meantime, industrial manufacturers of detection equipment have been diversifying their helium-3 sources and turning to recycling old helium-3 canisters.

In June 2011, however, General Electric (GE) did announce that it had introduced a new radiation detection solution using boron-10 (10B) to detect radiation in border security applications. These detectors are key components of radiation portal monitors used in a wide range of applications including screening at borders and in seaports. GE is the only company to date to manufacture an alternate neutron detection technology for deployment in radiation portal monitors.

It still needs to be seen how manufacturers will deal with their existing customers. Concerned Customs Administrations and Security Agencies should be reviewing the terms and conditions of their supply agreements in the meantime. Future acquisitions will no doubt look at Helium-3 based technology with sceptism unless they are uninformed.

Sources: WIRED, General Electric

European Union bans US X-Ray Body Scanners

The European Union on Monday prohibited the use of X-ray body scanners in European airports, parting ways with the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, which has deployed hundreds of the scanners as a way to screen millions of airline passengers for explosives hidden under clothing. The EC, which enforces common policies of the EU’s 27 member countries, adopted the rule in order not to risk jeopardizing citizens’ health and safety.

As a ProPublica/PBS NewsHour investigation detailed earlier this month, X-ray body scanners use ionizing radiation, a form of energy that has been shown to damage DNA and cause cancer. Although the amount of radiation is extremely low, equivalent to the radiation a person would receive in a few minutes of flying, several research studies have concluded that a small number of cancer cases would result from scanning hundreds of millions of passengers a year.

European countries will be allowed to use an alternative body scanner, on that relies on radio frequency waves, which have not been linked to cancer. The TSA has also deployed hundreds of those machines – known as millimeter-wave scanners – in U.S. airports. But unlike Europe, it has decided to deploy both types of scanners.

The TSA would not comment specifically on the EU’s decision. But in a statement, a TSA spokesman said, “As one of our many layers of security, TSA deploys the most advanced technology available to provide the best opportunity to detect dangerous items, such as explosives. We rigorously test our technology to ensure it meets our high detection and safety standards before it is placed in airports,” he continued. “Since January 2010, advanced imaging technology has detected more than 300 dangerous or illegal items on passengers in U.S. airports nationwide.”

Body scanners have been controversial in the United States since they were first deployed in prisons in the late 1990s and then in airports for tests after 9/11. Most of the controversy has focused on privacy because the machines can produce graphic images. But the manufacturers have since installed privacy filters.

As the TSA began deploying hundreds of body scanners after the failed underwear bombing on Christmas Day 2009, several scientists began to raise concerns about the health risks of the X-ray scanner, noting that even low levels of radiation would increase the risk of cancer.

As part of our investigation, ProPublica surveyed foreign countries’ security policies and found that only a few nations used the X-ray scanner. The United Kingdom uses them but only for secondary screening, such as when a passenger triggers the metal detector or raises suspicion.

Under the new European Commission policy, the U.K. will be allowed to complete a trial of the X-ray scanners but not to deploy them on a permanent basis when the trial ends.These new rules ensure that where this technology is used it will be covered by EU-wide standards on detection capability as well as strict safeguards to protect health and fundamental rights.

Five-hundred body scanners, split about evenly between the two technologies, are deployed in U.S. airports. The X-ray scanner, or backscatter, which looks like two large blue boxes, is used at major airports, including Los Angeles International Airport, John F. Kennedy in New York and Chicago’s O’Hare. The millimeter-wave scanner, which looks like a round glass booth, is used in San Francisco, Atlanta and Dallas.

Within three years, the TSA plans to deploy 1,800 backscatter and millimeter-wave scanners, covering nearly every domestic airport security lane. The TSA has not yet released details on the exact breakdown. Source: ProPublica