• United States



Edward Markey: Q&A

Dec 01, 20034 mins
ComplianceCritical InfrastructureIT Training 

Edward Markey has been a Massachusetts congressman since 1976. As a Democrat, he sits on the Select Committee on Homeland Security, where he speaks often about airline, chemical, biological and nuclear facilities security.

Edward Markey has been a Massachusetts congressman since 1976. As a Democrat, he sits on the Select Committee on Homeland Security, where he speaks often about airline, chemical, biological and nuclear facilities security. He also sits on the Telecommunications and the Internet Subcommittee, which is tackling issues such as cybersecurity, critical infrastructure protection, spam and online consumer privacy. Markey, who cofounded the Congressional Caucus on Privacy, told us how the government still has a lot of work to do to tighten security.

CSO: What do you consider the greatest unaddressed threat to homeland security?

Edward Markey: Billions of tons of cargo are transported in the belly of passenger planes every year, and none of this cargo is inspected before it’s loaded into the hold underneath the passenger compartment. While passengers on the flight are required to remove their shoes and submit to screening, the crates beneath their feet pass unscreened and uninspected onto the very same flight. This is a dangerous and unacceptable loophole that must be closed. Approximately 22 percent of all the air cargo shipped in the United States each year is transported on passenger planes. A cargo screening amendment I offered to the FY04 spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security passed overwhelmingly, and a motion I made to urge the inclusion of cargo screening in the department’s spending bill also passed by a wide margin. Unfortunately, the White House and the Republican majority in Congress have blocked the requirement that cargo be screened prior to loading it onto passenger planes. This unaddressed threat is too important to ignore.

Do you believe that the government should provide greater guidance to the public in times of heightened security? If so, what steps would you advise the government to take?

I believe that more detailed warnings, such as geographically specific information, should be provided to the public if possible. I have cosponsored H.R. 3158, which is the Preparing America to Respond Effectively Act. It includes a provision to reform the threat advisory system so that affected industries or geographic areas receive useful information. “Buy duct tape and plastic sheeting” and other general warnings to be vigilant do not provide the public with the information it needs to respond effectively when new threats are uncovered.

In addition to the need for a system that provides industry and geographically specific warnings, more specific recommendations should be given to the appropriate state and local officials when new information arises that could affect their jurisdictions. The advisory system should be refined so that messages appropriate for government officials, industry leaders and the general public are conveyed when a relevant threat emerges. Lack of sufficient security clearances and facilities for receiving and using classified information has hindered information flow at times. The Prepare Act requires the Department of Homeland Security to report on the number and level of security clearances needed by state and local government officials so that classified terrorist threat information can be conveyed appropriately. In your opinion, what are the Bush administration’s single greatest success and single greatest failure in the war on terror?In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the Bush administration responded quickly to explain to the public the nature of the terrorist threats facing America. Unfortunately, since then, the rhetoric has not been matched by tangible results in several key areas. For example, the Bush administration and Republicans in Congress have failed to:

  • Close the dangerous cargo loophole, which enables unscreened, uninspected cargo to be loaded aboard passenger planes.
  • Provide first responders with adequate funding, leading the nonpartisan council on foreign relations to report that the United States is “drastically underfunded” and “dangerously unprepared” for another terrorist attack.
  • Mandate the tough security measures needed to safeguard nuclear power plants from terrorist attacks.
  • Dramatically improve port security measures.
What role would you like to see corporate CSOs playing in the national discourse on security?

Security executives have a vital role to play in the effort to strengthen homeland security. CSOs are experts when it comes to protecting their own operations, and more than 80 percent of critical infrastructure is privately owned. We need the expertise of CSOs, both in advisory capacities and on the ground, if another attack occurs.