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The recent al Qaeda plot to hide plastic explosive powder in printer cartridges shipped on U.S.-bound cargo planes has the Department of Homeland Security scrambling to revise its security protocols so that shipments can be assessed and, if necessary, held for inspection before they are loaded onto a plane. The key to such a capability is obtaining pre-departure shipment information.
Contrary to general perception, U.S. Customs and Border Protection isn't seeking to push back the time at which air carriers must electronically file the cargo manifest. Instead, the agency believes that obtaining a subset of the manifest data in advance could enhance its ability to assess security risks without unduly burdening the air cargo industry, according to an agency official close to the policy deliberations.
Airlines are required under current law to electronically transmit their manifest data to CBP four hours prior to arrival or at "wheels up" for locations closer than four hours from the United States.
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