Hudson wants to stop flights to Cuba over security concerns

Published 11:30 am Thursday, July 14, 2016

By Josh Bergeron

SALISBURY — U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson is doubling down on his attempt to delay flights to Cuba over airport security concerns.

Hudson, R-8, on Tuesday introduced a bill to stop flights from the U.S. until security equipment at Cuba’s airports is inspected. He also joined with a New York representative on Thursday to ask U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to delay flights.

Hudson’s actions come a few weeks after he and other members of Congress weren’t granted visas to travel to Cuba and inspect security at airports.

“As far as we know, there will be daily flights coming into Charlotte from Cuban airports that don’t have proper screening or explosive detection, that can’t check for fake passports or IDs, that lack TSA on the ground and that don’t have air marshals on planes,” Hudson said in a news release when he introduced a bill earlier this week. “How can this administration guarantee the American people there won’t be a security threat on one of those planes?”

In a letter sent to Foxx on Thursday, Hudson and Rep. John Katko, a Republican from New York, note that Cuba was removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism about a year ago. The country has been a safe haven for terrorists, the letter states.

“We strongly urge the U.S. government to delay these plans to resume air service to Cuba until the security measures at these airports can be verified and the potential risks to our homeland security have been appropriately scrutinized,” the letter states.

Hudson and Katko outlined a number of concerns in support of their request, including: a potential lack of adequate body scanners, the quality of explosive detection systems, whether Cuban aviation workers are screened and if air marshals can fly missions to Cuba on commercial flights.

“These questions must be answered in order to provide certainty to the American public that their security will not be jeopardized by these new flights,” the letter states.

A bill introduced by Hudson and other members of the U.S. House — three Republicans and a Democrat — would also stop flights to Cuba, but it was introduced this week and hasn’t been voted on.

If approved, Hudson’s bill would require the Transportation Security Administration provide a report to congress that details security measures at 10 Cuban airports, require an independent audit of the TSA’s report to Congress, allow air marshals to conduct missions on flights between the U.S. and Cuba and allow TSA access to “last point of departure airports” to conduct security assessments.

Earlier this year, President Barack Obama became the first sitting American president in decades to visit Cuba. Obama has also attempted to ease restrictions on Cuba.

Flights have already been approved from the U.S. to Cuba. American Airlines is already selling tickets for flights that start in September. Charlotte is one of the airports that will offer flights to Cuba.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.