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Citing terror concerns, TSA announces increased scrutiny for cargo from five Muslim-majority nations

TSA tightens cargo screening for five carriers in predominantly Muslim countries. All cargo goes through security screening, but this amendment will require specific information about shipments headed to the U.S. from the designated airports before being loaded onto the plane. (Safin Hamed/AFP/Getty Images)

TSA announced on Monday an emergency order calling for tighter scrutiny of all U.S.-bound air cargo boarded onto carriers in five predominantly Muslim countries.

Six airlines operating in Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates are now required to participate in the Air Cargo Advance Screening program, TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in media release provided to TheBlaze.

The ACAS program is an otherwise voluntary program that is operated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

The order focuses on "seven last points-of-departure" locations where the threat is considered the greatest, according to the release, and it is "part of a larger effort by TSA to raise the global aviation security baseline."

How does the ACAS program work?

Participating carriers submit a subset of required advance air cargo data to CBP before boarding cargo destined to the U.S. onto the aircraft. It leverages Department of Homeland Security threat information and other data to employ a risk-based approach to improve air cargo security through targeted vetting.

The majority of carriers voluntarily participate in the program, according to TSA.

Which carriers and airports are affected?

• Egypt: Egypt Air, which operates out of Cairo International Airport.

• Jordan: Royal Jordanian, which operates out of Queen Alia International Airport.

• Saudi Arabia: Saudia, which operates out of King Abdul-Aziz International Airport and King Khalid International Airport.

• Qatar: Qatar Airways, which operates out of Doha International Airport.

• United Arab Emirates: Emirates and Etihad, which operate out of Dubai International Airport and Abu Dhabi International Airport.

What's new about this order?

All cargo goes through security screening, but this amendment will require specific information about shipments headed to the U.S. from the designated airports before being loaded onto the carrier.

The required information includes the parcel's origination, who's sending it, its destination, the mailing method, where the package has been since being mailed, along with its contents, CBS News reported.

TSA and CBP will use this order to mandate secondary inspections of flagged cargo.

"It establishes a 24/7 relationship with those carriers so we can pick up the phone and say we need you to look at this ... before the plane is loaded," a TSA official told CBS News.

How did TSA determine which countries would be required to participate?

Information from Homeland Security and other risk-based data was used to determine the greatest threat from terrorist groups.

"These countries were chosen because of a demonstrated intent by terrorist groups to attack aviation from them," according to TSA.

What else?

Turkey is the only other country required to participate in the ACAS, according to CBS News.

Turkey's order to participate came after a foiled terror plot to blow up an Australian airliner.

"The incident in Australia that occurred this past summer was an ominous reminder for TSA and all of our aviation partners, to include cargo carriers, that we need to continue our efforts to keep our skies secure," Pekoske said in the release.

The Trump administration is reportedly considering subjecting all U.S.-bound cargo to follow these rules.

One last thing…
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