October 3, 2013
By Dan Namowitz
The Department of Homeland Security should wait until an inspector general’s investigation into stops and searches of general aviation pilots by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents is completed before changing its record-keeping rules or shielding information from public disclosure, said Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) in a letter to the department's acting secretary.
AOPA has worked closely with Graves, the House GA Caucus co-chairman to slow the proposed rule changes that could sidestep public disclosure of information related to recent CBP searches of domestic GA flights. AOPA also questioned the rule-change proposal in a Sept. 20 letter to DHS.
Graves, in his Oct. 2 letter to Acting DHS Secretary Rand Beers, pointed out that the department proposed the record-keeping rule change after Graves requested a "full investigation and disclosure of CBP’s authority to track, stop and search GA aircraft."
Findings of the inspector general’s probe will be "extremely relevant and vital" to consideration of the proposed rule change, he added, noting that CBP’s apparent attempt to exempt information from disclosure highlights the need for more time to study the rule’s impact.
Graves requested that Beers delay any rulemaking and allow time for the inspector general’s investigation to be completed and for its findings to be reported, "which I requested no later than November 1, 2013, before DHS enters into any new rulemaking."
"We appreciate Congressman Graves’ continued responsiveness to the concerns raised by AOPA pilots," said Lorraine Howerton, AOPA vice president of legislative affairs. "Congressman Graves has been persistent with the administration about getting answers for pilots who are experiencing these unlawful searches."
The movement to exempt thousands of general aviation pilots from the third class medical certification process is gaining momentum in Congress and the aviation community.
The recent warrantless stops and searches of law-abiding pilots on general aviation flights have drawn the attention of mainstream media.
The National Aeronautic Association has awarded the Collier Trophy for “the first unmanned, autonomous air system operating from an aircraft carrier.”
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