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."
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.
Transportation Security Administration chief John Pistole announced Oct. 16 that he would retire from the helm of the agency on Dec. 31. According to the TSA, Pistole is the longest serving administrator the agency has had. His nomination to head the TSA was confirmed in 2010.
The Voters Decide campaign is making a pre-election push for a ballot measure to put the future of SMO into the hands of voters.
At an Oct. 2 meeting hosted by AOPA, U.S. CBP leaders met with their counterparts from Canada to discuss ways to ease GA border crossings.
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