Planes That Fly Over US Pose Security Threat: Expert

Flights passing over, not landing in nation could house 'dirty bomb'
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 27, 2010 3:07 AM CST
Updated Dec 27, 2010 7:00 AM CST

(Newser) – The thousands of cargo and passenger flights that fly over but don't land in the US each week aren't subject to full security screenings—and pose a potentially deadly risk to Americans, reports the Washington Post. The cargo aboard these flights isn't screened to federal standards, and passenger names aren't matched to the TSA's terror watch list. A terrorist could "explode a plane with a dirty bomb or a biological weapon or an actual nuclear weapon on board, and that material will spread wherever it crashes," said a counter-terrorism expert.

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Other countries "have their own cargo security protocols that apply to those aircraft," said a TSA statement, and scanning all flights carrying millions of packages a day is "totally unrealistic," said one transportation expert. Most overflight passenger planes are going to or from Canada, and 92% of the cargo planes are heading to or from Germany, according to FAA officials, who deny the flights pose a major security threat. As many as 3,000 flights cross over the continental US each week, but few of those pass over large population centers, said a spokesman for the International Air Transport Association. "It's a myth to say these overflights are the Wild West," said the spokesman.

(Read more terrorism stories.)

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