Transparency lax in Cuban airport deal

Richard Hudson - Contributing Columnist

As you know, Charlotte was recently selected as one of ten cities to receive nonstop flights to and from Cuba. This is a part of President Barack Obama’s plan to open diplomatic relations with the Castro regime. But did you know that the Obama Administration and the government of Cuba have continually stonewalled proper oversight and hid details of airport security arrangements?

It’s true, and it’s a tremendous cause for concern. My colleagues and I have tried to conduct oversight and make sure effective security is in place. In fact, we planned a trip to inspect security at Cuban airports, but the Cuban government blocked our visit. The lack of transparency to the American people is troubling and begs the question: Are they concealing something or simply negligent to the glaring security inadequacies?

As far as we know, Cuban Airports do not have proper screening or explosive detection equipment in place to ensure that threats are not entering our country. Additionally, our government has not been able to verify that airport personnel in Cuba will be able to check for fake passports or IDs, which is a potential loophole that could be exploited by terrorists looking to do us harm. And we have no idea how baggage handlers and employees at Cuban airports are screened or if their backgrounds are even checked. How can this administration guarantee the American people there won’t be a security threat on a plane traveling from Cuba to Charlotte?

By the same token, Cuba has been a safe haven for terrorists and was just recently removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. They’re a brutal regime that has failed to change their behavior despite President Obama giving Castro everything he wants while asking for nothing in return. We should not allow the proposed 110 commercial flights a day — we should not allow a single flight until we are absolutely sure they have proper security at airports to protect the safety of Americans.

Because of these glaring concerns about security at Cuban airports, I joined colleagues from both sides of the aisle to introduce the Cuban Airport Security Act of 2016. This bipartisan bill would prohibit scheduled passenger air transportation between the United States and Cuba until a study has been completed regarding security measures and equipment at Cuba’s airports. This legislation will effectively put the brakes on this dangerous plan.

At the end of the day, this is about security. These questions must be answered to provide certainty to the American public that our safety will not be jeopardized by these new flights. The Secretary of Homeland Security appears to agree. On Thursday, Secretary Jeh Johnson said he supported an extensive review by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office — which is a component of our bill. While this is a welcome statement, it should be a no-brainer, and I plan on holding him to it.

We were once again reminded of the threats we face last week when France was besieged by yet another horrific act of terror. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of France, and we will continue to stand with our ally in our efforts to defeat terrorism. As your Representative, I will continue to work to keep the American people safe.

U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, R-Concord, represents North Carolina’s 8th Congressional District, which currently includes Richmond County.

Richard Hudson

Contributing Columnist

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