Pascrell, Gottheimer Call on TSA to Prevent Human Trafficking

U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-9) at today's event.

Pascrell, Gottheimer Call on TSA to Prevent Human Trafficking

Joint letter highlights Jeffrey Epstein’s exploitation of gaps in TSA monitoring at Teterboro Airport

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Reps. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09) and Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ-05) called on the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to update its Security Guidelines for General Aviation Airport Operators and Users to block human trafficking at general aviation airports. In a letter to TSA Administrator David Pekoske raising alarms on gaps in TSA’s guidelines, Pascrell and Gottheimer cite Jeffrey Epstein’s use of Teterboro’s general aviation airport to transport human trafficking victims over the course of several decades which was uncovered by an exposé in the Bergen Record.

“While the [Government Accountability Office] has recognized these TSA measures have been generally successful at preventing terrorist or criminal activity at general aviation airports, the TSA guidelines on assessing security threats and in training protocols for the general aviation community make no mention of human trafficking,” Pascrell and Gottheimer write. “Mr. Epstein’s ability to take advantage of less stringent security regulations and staff training at Teterboro to facilitate a multidecade human trafficking ring demonstrates gaps in the current monitoring of general aviation airports and training of general aviation staff.”

Current TSA guidelines rely heavily on general aviation pilots and staff to screen and assess potential security threats. In their letter, Pascrell and Gottheimer lay out several measures that TSA could implement to further protect against human trafficking at airports.

Pascrell and Gottheimer continue, “we request that the TSA, in collaboration with the general aviation community, update its Security Guidelines for General Aviation Airport Operators and Users to include:

  1. Policies and procedures to prevent human trafficking.
  2. Reporting  protocols  to  inform  law  enforcement,  Congress,  and  the  general  public  on human trafficking efforts.
  3. Annual training on identifying and preventing human trafficking.

 

“The security gaps at General Aviation Airports like Teterboro allowed Jeffrey Epstein to use NJ as a base for his human trafficking operations for a decade,” said New Jersey State Senator Loretta Weinberg. “I applaud Congressman Pascrell’s and Congressman Gottheimer’s efforts to close these gaps and for their leadership in updating aviation security guidelines to reflect the realities of today. With millions trafficked across the globe, it is critical that we take every step to ensure that our airports are secure.”

Reps. Pascrell and Gottheimer’s full letter can be viewed here, the text of which appears below.

 

December 6, 2019

 

Mr. David P. Pekoske

Administrator

Transportation Security Administration

601 12th Street S

Arlington, VA 20598

 

Dear Mr. Pekoske:

On August 9, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit unsealed the private flight logs of Jeffrey Epstein.’ These documents indicated that Mr. Epstein used Teterboro Airport in Teterboro, New Jersey, as the primary hub of his human trafficking operation. According to reports, Mr. Epstein used Teterboro Airport to transport dozens of girls over multiple decades via private planes between his homes in Manhattan, New York and Palm Beach, Florida.

Unlike at commercial airports, we understand the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) relies on general aviation pilots and staff at the 14,500 general aviation airports in the United States to screen luggage and passengers and assess potential security threats based on TSA guidelines. While the GAO has recognized these TSA measures have been generally successful at preventing terrorist or criminal activity at general aviation airports, the TSA guidelines on assessing security threats and in training protocols for the general aviation community make no mention of human trafficking. Mr. Epstein’s ability to take advantage of less stringent security regulations and staff training at Teterboro to facilitate a multidecade human trafficking ring demonstrates gaps in the current monitoring of general aviation airports and training of general  aviation staff.

According to the International Civil Aviation Organization, aviation is one of the “primary modes of transportation  utilized  by  traffickers.”’ With an  estimated  24.9 million  victims  of  human trafficking  worldwide,  it is vitally important  that  the TSA  act decisively to ensure  the general aviation community is fully prepared to identify and stop human trafficking.

To that end, we request that the TSA, in collaboration with the general aviation community, update its Security Guidelines for General Aviation Airport Operators and Users to include:

  1. Policies and procedures to prevent human trafficking.
  2. Reporting  protocols  to  inform  law  enforcement,  Congress,  and  the general  public  on human trafficking efforts.
  3. Annual training on identifying and preventing human trafficking.

Further we ask  you to work with us to determine if additional  statutory  authority  is needed  to address human trafficking at our general aviation airports. Please provide us with a response to the following:

  1. Please detail TSA’s current statutory authority to ensure general aviation airports are secure and free of  criminal  activity,  especially  for  identifying  and  guarding against  human trafficking. Please identify if limitations exist in TSA’s current statutory authority.
  2. Please explain how TSA ensures general aviation pilots comply with the applicable statute and TSA guidance.

We appreciate your prompt attention to this matter and look forward to your response to our requests and questions.

 

Sincerely,

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