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US Senate Votes to Keep Terrorists from Exploiting Security Flaws in Flights from Cuba

A bill to regulate commercial flights traveling between Cuba and the United States passed through the House of Representatives this Monday, October 23. The bill intends to promote airport security on the island by increasing oversight of officials who must comply with certain aviation requirements.

American Airlines and JetBlue at the Aeropuerto Internacional José Martí de La Habana (Havana). Scott Mayerowitz AP

The bill was introduced by House Homeland Security Transportation and Protective Security Subcommittee Chairman John Katko and Democrat Albio Sires, of New Jersey.

“It’s up to us to figure out what’s going on down there,” Katko said during a discussion of the risks Americans face in traveling to Cuba, especially those that could be exploited by terrorists. “They allow very little oversight by the TSA.”

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Katko said airlines lack sufficient transparency when it comes to their employees, how they are selected and how much they are paid. It raises serious concerns about the scope of background investigations on workers with access to sensitive areas of the airport. The bill, Katko said, doesn’t intend to stop commercial air service with Cuba, but rather to make it safe, thereby maintaining the historic re-opening of the island by former President Barack Obama in 2016.

The bill would also implement security assessments at each of Cuba’s 10 airports, and report back to Congress on all agreements and memorandums signed with foreign entities. Additionally, it requires US airlines to make public any type of contract they make with the Raúl Castro regime for hiring local personnel.

Before presenting the bill, and even before the commercial flights between the two nations began, Katko tried to travel to Cuba with other members of the committee to personally review airport security levels. However, Havana denied them visas.

During his campaign, President Donald Trump promised to reverse Obama’s policies on Cuba, and followed through with much of it earlier this year; however, commercial air service between the two countries has been left intact.

Sources: Cubanet, El Nuevo Herald, Cibercuba, Diario de Cuba, The Hill, Martí Noticias

Article originally appeared on Today Cuba and is republished here with permission.