U.S. Rep. John Katko (R-NY) has expressed concern over the normalization of diplomatic relations with communist Cuba and the resulting direct commercial air travel that has since been established between the U.S. and the island nation.
“Recent tragedies have shown us that insider threats to aviation are real, and it is clear that the U.S. government currently lacks sufficient information to ensure that Cuban airports are not vulnerable to the external and internal threats that prevail in today’s sensitive security environment,” Katko said.
“Nor has sufficient information been provided to U.S. air carriers about the ideological sentiments, criminal history, or foreign ties of Cuban airport workers. Further, the airlines will not be permitted to hire their own workers and all airport and airline functions will be performed by Cuban government employees.”
President Obama lands at Havana's Jose Marti International Airport in Air Force One.
Noting that Cuba has long been tied to criminal and terrorist organizations, Katko mentioned the discovery of forged Cuban passports that are used by Afghans and manufactured by Iranians as reason enough to strengthen security measures before the resumption of commercial air travel.
“In spite of concerns about the security of Cuban airports, the Obama administration continues to push political goals at the expense of the safety and security of the traveling public by moving forward with commercial flights between Cuba and the U.S.,” Katko said. “This premature, and ill-advised opening represents a direct threat to our national security.”
Republican Katko is a former federal prosecutor. In May, the House of Representatives almost unanimously passed one of Katko's bills, which establishes the Counterterrorism Advisory Board: a panel of top officials in the Department of Homeland Security who respond to and attempt to disrupt terrorism threats. The bill requires Homeland Security officials to work to share intelligence, operations and policy information. That was one of the principal goals set out by the commission that arose in the aftermath of 9/11 to study intelligence and preparedness deficiencies on the part of government in the face of terrorism.
Katko has had more bills pass (a total of eight) than any other individual in the 64-member freshman class elected in 2014. He serves on the House Homeland Security Committee, where he chairs the Transportation Security subcommittee. He also serves on the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure.
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