tv Homeland Security Officials Testify on U.S. Commercial Flights to Cuba CSPAN May 21, 2016 2:46pm-3:49pm EDT
mogadishu, which one was killed, and sharm el-sheikh, tragically killing everyone on board, serves as a stern reminder that there are those who wish to do us harm using commercial aircraft. there are over 300 airports around the world that serve as last points of departure, or foreign airports that fly directly to the u.s. the standard is always that tsa and other relevant entities perform the investigation and mitigation measures necessary to ensure that these flights are not able to be targeted by nefarious characters. as i understand it, the agencies' efforts to inspect and prepare the cuban airports are no different than stringent inspection efforts and regulatory schemes that are in place at other last points of departure airports. the title of this hearing, "flying blind," would lead you to believe that nothing has been done to assess these airports before they schedule commercial service to and from the united states. tsa informs us that they are inspecting and evaluating airports even as we speak.
these airports must have a level of security at least on par with international civil aviation organizational standards, and inspectors are ensuring this now. tsa also has the power to implement regulatory schemes that compel airlines to perform additional security measures beyond icao standards. i look forward to hearing from assistant secretary fujimura, the head of the office of global strategies, on what his teams are doing to ensure security in cuban airports and what additional mitigation measures he plans to implement. i also look forward to hearing from deputy assistant wagner, who will talk to us about the role cbp plays in foreign flight or travel prevention and fraudulent document detection efforts. i thank assistant secretary stodder for appearing today to
speak on the broader aspect of dhs' policies in these matters. i understand that principal deputy assistant secretary tong has a hard stop due to other engagements. it's going to be even harder because we just had votes called. so, i hope you are with us for a while. i yield back, mr. chairman. chairman katko: thank you. due to votes on the floor, the subcommittee stands in recess subject to the call of the chair. we anticipate probably about a half an hour or so.
chairman katko: thank you for coming back from that break. sorry about that. we sometimes can't control the whims of the voting process. but other members of the committee are reminded that opening statements may be submitted for the record. we are pleased to have with us five distinguished witnesses to testify before us today on this very important topic. our four witnesses from the department of homeland security include mr. larry mizell, who currently serves as tsa's representative for the caribbean region, which includes cuba -- is that correct? ok. mr. paul fujimura, assistant administrator for the office of
global strategies at the transportation security administration. mr. john wagner, deputy executive assistant commissioner for customs and border protection. that is a big title. mr. seth stodder, the assistant secretary of homeland security for border, immigration, and trade policy at the department of homeland security. thank you all for being here today. i now recognize mr. stodder for a joint statement on behalf of all four witnesses from the department of homeland security. mr. stodder: good afternoon, chairman katko, ranking member rice, and distinguished members of the subcommittee. my name is seth stodder and i am the assistant secretary of homeland security for border, immigration, and trade policy. on behalf of my colleagues from dhs that sit beside me today, i thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the department's role in aviation security, specifically as it pertains to commercial air service between the united states and cuba.
i'll be providing brief opening statement on behalf of myself, as well as my three dhs colleagues, and then we would look forward to answering any questions you might have. let me begin by discussing the dhs role in aviation security generally, and then i will get to the issues more specific to cuba. since the 9/11 attacks, and with the help and support of congress, dhs has worked to develop a robust, risk-based strategy aimed at securing aviation against threats while also facilitating the lot whole flow of legitimate travel and commerce across our borders and throughout the aviation system. as repeated incidents have reminded us, from the 9/11 attacks themselves to the recent destruction of metrojet flight 9268 above the northern sinai in october 2015, the aviation sector remains a target for attack or exploitation by terrorists, criminals, and other bad actors. to meet this challenge, the dhs strategy relies upon the following core elements. first, under u.s. law, dhs, acting through tsa, is required to assess security at all foreign airports serving as a last point of departure offering service to the united states. pursuant to the law, tsa has people on the ground working with foreign partners, air carriers, airport authorities, and others to assess all aspects of the security at such airports.
only after tsa determines that an airport meets international security standards may that airport offer flight service to the united states. once flight service begins, tsa continues to inspect and monitor these airports and carriers, and it has the authority to take action if security standards are not being met or if intelligence warrants. tsa can suspend service entirely or it can issue security directives and emergency amendments for mandatory implementation by carriers at lpd locations. bottom line, tsa keeps a close eye on the security of foreign airports that offer air service to the united states. second, only those with valid travel documents are permitted to fly to the united states. most foreign nationals seeking to travel must possess a valid visa issued by the u.s. embassy or consulate, unless they're nationals of a country that participates in the visa waiver program, in which case they must apply for travel authorization through the electronic system for travel authorization, or the esta program.
third, both tsa and cbp collect information from passengers and air carriers so that we can identify and vet for security purposes all air passengers seeking travel to the united states. through the secure flight program, tsa vets all air passengers against the terrorist screening database, including the no-fly list prior to wheels up. once travel is booked, cbp's national targeting center gathers information from the air carriers to assess risk and conduct pre-departure vetting of all passengers. if tsa or cbp identify a security or enforcement issue, dhs will coordinate with the regional carrier liaison groups to prevent that person from boarding the flight. finally, on arrival all inbound air passengers and their luggage are subject to further screening by cbp before entering the united states. this multilayered security and enforcement strategy applies to all international aviation to the united states and will also apply with equal force to the scheduled commercial aviation to and from cuba whenever it begins.
specifically with regard to cuba, dhs has worked closely with our interagency partners, including the state department, as the united states has worked to evolve our bilateral relationship. dhs plays a key role in the u.s.-cuba relationship by working to secure lawful, orderly flows of people and commerce between our two countries, and working together on law enforcement, maritime safety and security, migration, among other issues. most recently, dhs signed the memorandum of understanding with the cuban ministry of the interior and customs focused on law enforcement cooperation. this week, senior dhs leaders, including the deputy secretary, are in cuba as part of the ongoing u.s.cuba law enforcement dialogue, co-chaired by the departments of state, justice, and homeland security, with a dhs delegation, including representatives from the u.s. coast guard, cbp, and ice. with regard to the start of scheduled air service between the u.s. and cuba, as i have noted, all of the security and enforcement requirements in place for international flights to the united states will be applied with equal force to cuba flights. indeed, these measures are already in place with regard to the charter flights that have
for many years offered service between our two countries. furthermore, tsa is working to finalize an arrangement with cuba for the deployment of federal air marshals, which will be in place before the start of scheduled commercial flights. in short, dhs is working closely with our interagency partners, the commercial air carriers, and others to ensure the security of scheduled commercial flights to and from cuba once they begin. we will continue to work together and in consultation with this committee as we work in general to strengthen ongoing efforts to secure international air travel and promote safe and efficient international travel and tourism to and from the united states. thank you for the opportunity to testify here today, and my dhs colleagues and i look forward to answering any questions you might have. chairman katko: thank you, mr. stodder. i now recognize mr. kurt tong, principal deputy assistant secretary for the bureau of economic and business affairs at the u.s. state department, for his testimony. mr. tong: thank you, chairman katko, ranking member rice, distinguished members of the committee. i welcome this opportunity to testify on behalf of the
department of state regarding the process and rationale for negotiating the arrangement recently signed between the united states and cuba on international air transportation between our two countries. consistent with u.s. law and longstanding practice, the department of state leads u.s. delegations in negotiating with foreign governments on bilateral aviation agreements and arrangements, in consultation with the departments of transportation and commerce and other departments and agencies as appropriate. shortly after the president's december 17, 2014 announcement that the united states would be taking a number of steps to work towards normalizing relations with cuba, and after coordinating with all relevant agencies, the department of state approached the government of cuba to propose technical discussions on restoring scheduled commercial air service. for many years, all air travel between the united states and cuba has been via charter service.
charter flights have adequately served the relatively low levels of travel between the united states and cuba during those decades of strained relations, but amid the process of normalization, the administration aimed to expand authorized travel and people-to-people contacts between the united states and cuba. by expanding people-to-people ties, we believe that we can more effectively support the aspirations of the cuban people for a better life. the administration therefore concluded that restoring scheduled air service would be necessary to accomplish those objectives. the cuban government accepted our proposal to hold technical discussions about the modalities for restoring scheduled air service, and the department also informed u.s. industry about our plans and received the airline industry's full and enthusiastic support for this effort. the united states and cuban
governments held three rounds of technical discussions in march, september, and december of 2015, and the u.s. delegation comprised officials from five federal agencies -- the departments of state, transportation, and commerce, as well as the transportation security administration and the department of treasury's office of foreign assets control. ofac simultaneously also amended its cuban assets control regulations in january 2015 to allow, by general license, u.s. carriers to offer scheduled service between the united states and cuba to authorized travelers. at the third round of consultations in washington in december 2015, the united states and cuba finalized the text of a memorandum of understanding, which was signed in havana in february 2016 by secretary of transportation anthony foxx and assistant secretary of state for economic and business affairs charles rivkin signing for the united states.
this mou is an informal, non-binding arrangement delineating the terms for international air transportation between the two countries. with respect to scheduled service, the mou provides for u.s. carriers to operate 20 daily round-trip frequencies to havana and 10 daily round-trip frequencies to each of the nine other cuban cities with an international airport. it also provides for charter services to continue to operate without limitation. u.s. carriers, the reaction from them, they are very eager to offer scheduled service to cuba, and they universally welcome the new mou and have now submitted applications to the department of transportation to operate flights on specific routes to havana and other cuban cities. in the case of havana, applications for u.s. carriers far exceed the mou's limit of 20 frequencies per day.
the department of transportation is currently conducting a frequency allocation proceeding to determine which u.s. carriers will receive frequencies -- that procedure based on the public interest. we believe this new mou will support the objectives of promoting authorized travel between the united states and cuba and people-to- people contacts. the mou will also generate new business opportunities for the u.s. aviation industry and help if i could anticipate a couple , with regard to the use of an informal arrangement at this time, the reason why we had a limited negotiating ourctive, dissimilar from usual approach with such bilateral negotiations, which is to aim for open skies agreement -- fitting our open skies model
was possible in understanding how much the traffic would bear given the ongoing restrictions on travel and trade between the united states and cuba. throughout the negotiations with cuba, u.s. negotiations carefully articulated regulations affecting cuba and those that have not changed. for example the mo you does not u.s.t or change current travel restrictions, it does not change personal subject to u.s. jurisdiction who travel to cuba and must be authorized by a general or specific license under one of the 12 categories of authorized travel. and cuban governments reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen their already closed cooperation of aviation safety and aviation security matters. a reaffirmed their commitment to buy -- to abide by the
commitments and acting conformity with aviation standards and appropriate yoummended practices for are dissipating in the u.s. delegation threat these negotiations and provided valuable advice on tsa's ongoing cooperation with the cuban government to strengthen aviation security. thank you very much for this opportunity. >> thank you, i understand you have a hard stuff at 3:30? would like to be able to honor that, because i don't want to create a diplomatic incident duringpanese colleagues a panel with me together at 3:30. >> i want to thank you for your testimony and members will provide you with questions. we appreciate your response i alsoa 10 day period
want to ask unanimous consent that the gentleman from pennsylvania be allowed to sit on the way us and participate in today's hearing. i thank you gentlemen for being here this afternoon and i doubt i will get through every i can in the first round here. appreciate brief and concise answers to the best of your ability. what is your title currently? >> my current title is tsa representative. countries,articular such as cuba and the bahamas. theave you reviewed airports in cuba in question? >> i do not review them? mime -- i'm not an inspector. my goal is to work with the foreign government, the foreign government of cuba in this case, and make sure they meet all the security requirements that exist.
i share with them best practices, lessons learned, and one very important aspect is to ensure that once the inspectors wee identified a deficiency work closely with the government to ensure that deficiencies corrected. -- theret visited the currently seven. i have visited all seven. >> with respect to the ones you visited, giving us some general findings from those visits? do you remember telling us about your general observations from those visits? in the sevenme airports you visited, how many have explosive detection equipment? >> the last time i spoke with you we were in a closed session. what spoke frankly about we had and what we did not have within cuba.
with this open session i am reluctant to get into exactly what equipment they have. >> lamy pause for a moment please. for the record are you saying the information you provided to us is considered ssi information? >> yes sir. msn we will probably have to move this to a secure hearing at some point. give me one second.
i just want to make sure the record is clear. with respect to the canine , is it youre had understanding those are also ssi? >> it is a level of security out there. >> with respect to discussion about body scanners, you're saying that is ssi as well? with the respect to training we discussed, is that also ssi? there is nothing to discuss, really. >> let's discuss that, then. how the cuban authorities train their airport personnel? >> knows her.
idea what ise any done for background checks? this anybody in the united states government have an idea of what that is? cirque, thank you sir -- sir, thank you sir. operation to be a 30 of authority of the u.s. code -- >> the you understand if there is any training, what up of training these personnel have? , they are trading undergo background investigations operating in cuba. our inspectors have gone to cuba thathey have ascertained cuba does meet all the standards, including control and >> you mentionks
travel documents and i know we spoke about document verification capabilities. do you consider those answers you give us in those meeting ssi as well? >> yes, sir. >> ok. all right. and we mentioned -- somebody mentioned the federal air marshal service here. is -- is -- is -- who mentioned? mr. stodder? >> yes. >> thank you. with respect to the federal air marshal service, is it your testimony that there will be no flights from the united states -- from cuba to the united states unless the federal air marshal service has been allowed to be on those flights, like they normally do elsewhere in the world? >> yes. >> ok. >> thank you. and do -- you just don't know what that timeframe is? yeah, it's -- i mean, that -- that agreement is still being under negotiation, but it's -- it's being negotiated now. katko: so there will be no flights until that -- until the federal air marshals are allowed to be on the flights? >> correct.
katko: ok. and when do you expect flights to -- to begin between -- the commercial flights to begin between the united states and cuba? >> that's really a question for the department of transportation at this point. i mean, that's really more in their hands. katko: what do -- what do you anticipate? >> we don't know. katko: ok. now, mr. mizell or others that are handling this ssi inquiry that we spoke about, i paused us because i did not understand that to be matters of -- of importance because you did not delineate that when we spoke; we simply sat down and had a conversation in a non-secure setting. so forgive me for raising those questions. but we are going to submit questions to you and you're going to -- and i want you to designate for us which ones you believe to be ssi. now, is it fair to say, though, during that meeting that you had some pretty significant concerns about some of the security aspects at those airports? >> the concerns i had that i shared with you was over a five-year period. certainly i had concerns at the beginning which i don't have now. katko: so you don't have any
concerns whatsoever right now? >> right now the government of cuba airports that have been assessed and inspected by the inspectors meet icao standards. katko: now, that's not my question, sir. my question is i'm talking about you. based on your personal observations, do you have concerns? because you certainly -- you annunciated those to us in that meeting. >> i shared concerns with you from what i saw early on, which was quite different than the situation we have today. katko: so it's your testimony here today that you have no more concerns about any of the security aspects at these -- these lpd airports? >> my testimony is that they meet the standards required by icao. katko: that's not the question, sir. mizell: as long as they meet the standards required by -- by icao, if there's anything else i can do to improve security i will certainly do so. katko: ok. i'll try and ask one more time: do you have any concerns about the security aspects at those airports, based on your own personal opinion? mizell: my same answer applies, sir. the concerns i have are very minor compared to what we were looking at five years ago. katko: so, ok, but you're still not going to answer the question of whether you have concerns or not?
>> sir, they meet icao standards. katko: ok. we'll move on. i have one question, and i -- i -- any of you gentlemen can -- can answer this question if you'd like. the question i have is why the rush? why -- why the rush to open 10 airports, which is an awfully large number of airports, from a country that we've had very little relationship with in -- in the -- in the past five decades? why the rush in getting this done so quickly? and why 10 airports to start? why not start with a few and see how it goes? >> that's a question really sort of best directed, i think, to the department of transportation and the states department, with regard to the u.s. -- broader u.s. policy on opening
commercial aviation with cuba. katko: you don't have any opinion on the matter? >> i don't really have an opinion on that. ok. anybody else have an -- have any input on that? >> sir, i -- i would note that, as mr. tong pointed out, public charters have been operating for some time and they're operating form six current last point departure airports and they fully meet icao standards and we are completely comfortable with the security standards that are being met on those flights. katko: ok. so with the -- with the -- well, you're talking about approximately 100 more flights a day. is that correct? >> sir, i think the number of flights is a department of transportation question that's not -- not my area, sir. katko: well, if your area is security, assuming there's 100 more flights a day, which we've been told at least that -- perhaps as many as 110 a day -- isn't it fair to say that the infrastructure at those airports is such that it may put stress on the -- the infrastructure capabilities quite a bit? >> sir, i wouldn't want to speculate on the capacity of the cuban infrastructure. i would note, however, that flights from europe involving many of the major european carriers are flying into cuba every day, as well as regional traffic is coming in and out of cuba.
it's a very heavily trafficked airport, so i -- i would note that and that there are -- is -- they are currently meeting all icao standards and major aircraft operators are comfortable flying in and out of cuba, as well. you've -- have you been to cuba yourself and have observed these airports? no, sir, i have not been to cuba. katko: ok. mr. mizell, you've been to cuba and you've -- you've observed the havana airport. am i -- am i correct? mizell: that is correct. katko: is it fair to say that it's going to put a stress on that airport when they have an increase -- a large increase in the passenger travel there? mizell: i know the cubans have been working on terminal three, where the international flights all come into. they are -- the number of flights into each terminal has not been determined; that's something that will be worked out between the cubans and the air carriers. so whether or not there is going to be a crunch remains to be seen. katko: do you have any observations based on what you've learned so far? because
you certainly expressed them to us before. mizell: the only observations that i observed that were of concern was the fact that they lacked a couple of buses so when it was raining we had -- we had delays getting off the aircraft. katko: no other -- no other concerns? mizell: no, sir. katko: ok. thank you for your time. ms. rice? i now recognize ms. rice for five minutes of questioning. ms. rice: so i just want to assure all of you that this is not a criminal inquiry, much to the, you know, to the -- the -- the tone that the questions have taken so far. i like to think that this is an information-gathering hearing, that all of you clearly feel that you have some information that would be good to see exactly how this whole process is being set up. and one of the questions that i have for you, mr. mizell, which
i think you'll be able to answer is: is it -- is there -- has there been a statement on behalf of the cuban government that they are going to be investing in infrastructure to be able to deal with the increase in tourism and flights and cruise ships and everything else, in terms of now that, you know, the -- there is this new relationship? >> the investment into the cruise ship industry i'm not familiar with. ms. rice: i'm just talking about in terms of what -- what chairman katko was just asking about, in terms of does the -- can the infrastructure handle this. has there been a commitment, to the best of your knowledge, by the cuban government to actually put money into the infrastructure to be able to handle the increase in flights if they -- it comes to that point? >> as i mentioned, they -- they have a -- a project underway at terminal three, where the international flights come into other than u.s. flights. whether or not the cuban
government plans to divert some of the u.s. flights to terminal three remains to be seen. >> mr. fujimura, i have a question for you. how -- so -- so the -- there are seven airports that are lpd airports in cuba that we're talking about here, although the number 10 has been thrown around. we're talking about seven airports? >> there are currently seven lpd-designated airports but only six are active at this time for... >> so we'll work with... so we'll work with the number six. so with the inspection of these six lpd airports by the tsa, any different than any other airport operating as an lpd airport anywhere around the world? >> no. our -- our tsa assessment program is very standardized. our -- we have a cadre of about 150 inspectors who work around the world and they follow a very clearly articulated job aid that assist them in conducting these assessments. it's a very regular process that we operate around the world.
now, how regularly is the tsa going to be inspecting the six lpd airports in cuba? , -- >> we'll be there annually to look at the airports on a regular basis. if we're talking about any kind of start of service or changes, our tsa inspectors are there before service starts up, while service is starting to ensure that everything is going smoothly, and they'll be there afterwards after about a 30-day period to make sure that operations are running smoothly and normally and in accordance with icao standards. >> so now, in your opinion, how secure is flying to and from cuban airports compared to any other lpd airports in the world? >> i would be very comfortable flying from cuba myself. it's -- it's -- they meet international standards. >> so, you know, we were talking before about the inspire -- the most recent issue of inspire magazine. can you -- if you -- if you
think you can answer this, can you talk a little bit about where you think cuba fits into the larger threat picture that tsa and all of us are concerned about not just here but in other lpd airports abroad? thank you. so the inspire magazine which came out on the 15th of may is still being evaluated by the intelligence community, but it -- it clearly articulates a -- a focus from al qaida in the arabian peninsula on aviation, on targeting aviation. recent events, including metrojet, which you've talked about, the daallo aircraft in -- in somalia, brussels, paris -- these indicate to me an -- a focus for us on africa, middle east, and perhaps the foreign fighter issue in europe being a major concern for aviation.
>> now, so that's not to say that cuba could not become a focus in the future, correct? but we are -- is tsa working towards ensuring that the -- the -- all of the databases that are available to us here and other countries, especially lpd airports, are going to be accessible to the cuban government when they do their assessment before... during that process? >> we will not take our eye off the ball on any of the lpd airports. in fact, the big advantage to the value add that tsa puts on these lpd traffic is we know who's coming our way. through secure flight we're vetting -- we have master crew lists; we have crew manifests; we have passenger manifests that we partner with with our colleagues from cbp. we have a very clear idea of who is coming our way, whether they're on any kind of watch list. so on top of the physical security that is undertaken at that last point of departure airport, we're -- at tsa and at cbp we're -- we have the advantage, again of having a very good idea of the identity and the person -- and the kind of person who's coming to -- to our country. >> has anyone on this panel been
asked in their duties and responsibilities vis-a-vis opening up travel between the u.s. and cuba to cut any kind of corners in terms of security or anything like that? any of you, have you ever -- have any of you been asked to cut corners to ensure that this gets done in a timely manner? >> not at all. >> no. >> ok. thank you. i don't have anything further. >> thank you, ms. rice. but i -- i must take issue with your reference to a criminal inquiry. the -- the reason for the nature and tone of my questioning was because when we met with mr. mizell previously, not once did he say that any of the information was of a sensitive or ssi nature, and not once before the hearing today did anybody at homeland security or tsa make any mention that that -- that -- that information was of a sensitive nature. and why that information is so important is because the information mr. mizell delineated offered serious concerns about the nature and quality of the equipment at those airports throughout cuba. so -- so... >> well, i understand that there was some... >> let me finish, please. so there -- there -- we had a very robust discussion, what i thought was a very helpful discussion, what i thought was a very fruitful discussion, and i
also encountered two weeks at least -- my staff did -- at least two weeks of back and forth trying simply to get mr. mizell to come here today because it was resisted repeatedly for two weeks at least. and my staff spent a good part of a full week just trying to get, without a subpoena, to get you to produce the witness we wanted you to produce. and then when you get here today for the very first time we hear that this -- the -- the stuff that you talked about in an open setting was considered to be ssi. well, if you did that earlier we wouldn't have had that back and forth, we wouldn't have had this -- wouldn't have had to have the tone of the inquiry we had today. >> why do you have to take that tone anyway? why don't you just ask him the question? we're all adults... we're all professionals. there is no reason to adopt that -- with all due respect to everyone here, and everyone can adopt whatever tone they want, but if you want to get answers, we're not -- we're not prosecutors anymore. we're not. no one here. mr. ratcliffe is not; mr. katko is not; neither am i. >> yes, but we have a solemn duty to our country to make sure that we do proper oversight of
tsa. then don't play politics. there is no politics going on here. we simply are trying to get the answers. because it sounds to me like we're playing politics here, and there's no reason... >> i'd like to reclaim my time. thank you, ms. rice. the is we are trying to get to the bottom of what we consider to be very grave concerns we have about the opening of these airports before the rest of the inquiry is done. >> if you really were you wouldn't be doing it in this setting. >> i've reclaimed my time, please. and we were expecting fully to have mr. mizell tell us the things he told us because we had no idea that mr. mizell was going to claim that this stuff was ssi. so that was the nature of the inquiry. so if you -- if you have -- take issue with my tone, let me apologize for that. but i do have the interest of our country is the biggest thing at -- at -- at stake to us, and making sure that the airline's safe and that people are safe. now, overlay with all this is an
article in the washington post that happened -- that came out recently talking about afghanistan individuals trying to use false cuban documents to get into cuba and ultimately into the united states. so there is serious concerns. i'm not saying that anybody here is involved in malfeasance; we're simply trying to get the facts out. so -- and, mr. mizell, if -- if -- if any of you took issue with my tone, let me apologize for that, but let me understand that the interest of this country and the interest of keeping the airlines safe and making sure that before you open up travel to a former communist country that there has been testimony this year saying that there are still very -- very major concerns about the counterespionage activities that we make sure we dot our i's and cross our t's, and i hope you understand that. >> well, if i could just interject -- and i'm sure as the ranking member you would give me that opportunity to do that -- then let's not make it us versus them. no one has a corner on the market of national security. there isn't a democrat or a republican in this congress who doesn't have a priority of keeping this country safe.
and if you want to really get to the bottom of whether or not the proper analysis is going forward before we open up actual travel, again, and normalize -- this is part of the normalization of relationships, then do it in a private setting where we can get the real information instead of putting on a show and asking questions that people can't answer. that's all i'm asking for. let's just take the politics out of this clearly politicized issue and get to the heart of the matter here. >> we were attempting to do that today, ms. rice. thank you very much. the chair now recognizes the gentleman from georgia, mr. carter. >> thank you, mr. chairman. and thank all of you for being here. and i will preface my remarks by apologizing for my tone. have any of you ever been to cuba? you've been to cuba? just raise your hand. well i have, and i think this is the most ludicrous thing that i've ever heard of that we're going to open up commercial travel to cuba. you know, when i visited cuba i -- i was really excited because we had dinner one night with an 83-year-old and 23-year-old, and i kind of knew what to expect
out of the 83-year-old, but the 23-year- old i was really interested in -- in knowing what -- what that person would have to say. i was appalled to learn that -- that that person actually believed the united states of america had dropped the atomic bomb on pearl -- or, excuse me, on -- on japan after they had surrendered. honest injun, that's what she told me. could not believe it. i was appalled to hear that. let me ask you, mr. fujimura, once -- once the -- the -- the commercial service to cuba begins, how many passengers do you anticipate having come and go to cuba -- come from cuba to america and go to cuba from america? >> sir, the scheduled commercial service that you're referencing, that would be a department of transportation economic estimate... >> ok. ok, i've heard that. you know, i -- i got three minutes and 41 seconds left. let me tell you again about my trip to cuba.
they hate capitalism. they hate everything we stand for. i -- i learned that in my trip to cuba. i can tell you that. they hate america. they do not hate us as americans, but they do hate america and what we represent. >> they blame us for all of their economic woes. everything. and -- and this was not just the 83-year-old and the 23-year-old. everyone that i had the -- the opportunity to speak to over there felt the same way. i took great offense to that. great offense. i love america. i think it's the greatest country ever in the history of the world. i -- i can't for the life of me understand -- you know, i'll tell you another story. we -- we had the -- the opportunity to visit with some journalists and i asked them -- i -- i had the opportunity to ask them, i said, "you know, are -- are they -- are -- is the regime still taking political prisoners?" on a stack of bibles i will tell you this was their answer: "yeah, they're still taking them, but they're not keeping them as long anymore." well, there you go.
that's progress. what do you think is going to happen? i want to know your personal opinion -- as americans, i want to know your personal opinion: what do you think is going to happen whenever we open up travel between these two countries, their economy starts doing better? you think that's going to suppress the current regime over there? do any of you think that's going to suppress them? do any of you think that that's only going to empower them even more than they are now? i -- i -- i'm interested to know. anyone? anyone? mr. stodder, please? mr. stodder: i mean, i'm not going to -- i mean, i can't opine on that. i mean, all i can say is that, i mean, we, as representatives of the department of homeland security, are focused on the security of air transit between cuba and the united states. >> i understand that. and i wasn't asking you as a representative of whatever you said; i was asking you as americans. and i'm here testifying as a >> assistant secretary of... (crosstalk) >> and not as an american? >> and as an american citizen, certainly. >> and that's what i was asking, as an american citizen. >> well, that's -- i mean, that's -- i'm -- i'm testifying as a representative of the department of homeland security,
and the focus of the department of homeland security is ensuring the security of commercial aviation and other aviation between cuba and the united states. >> carter: ok. well then let me ask you -- help me out here, mr. stodder. help me understand the difference between what international requirements are for checking and -- and for going through security and what american tsa policies are and requirements are. are they the same -- one and the same? >> with regard to international aviation from last points of departure for flights to the united states, tsa enforces and inspects air -- air -- airports to ensure they meet international standards under the icao standards. so that's one piece of it, as i -- as i discussed in my opening testimony. so that's one piece, which is ensuring the security of the airports themselves. cliques but then also cbp and tsa both have a role with regard to vetting... cliques is that what i asked you? i thought i asked you were they one and the same? the standards... are they the same standards? mr. fujimura? >> yes, sir. i can take that one. cliques ok, good.
-- >> ok, good. so the difference between what tsa standards are and what icao standards set are -- are performance-based. they set what should happen. what tsa does is when we assess we assess how well those performance measures are being carried out, those standards and recommended practices are being carried out. in the united states tsa's sops are much more proscriptive -- prescriptive. >> much more prescriptive. let me -- just let me ask you this, just straightforward as i can be: are you as comfortable with someone coming out of cuba as you would be for someone coming out of -- out of america? >> sir, of course i -- i believe that at tsa we have a gold standard... >> is that yes or no? that's all yes or no. >> yes, sir. i'm very comfortable traveling internationally from places. >> no. someone who has gone through security in cuba and is now coming over to america -- are you as -- as -- as confident that they have been vetted as someone who is leaving america
and going to cuba? >> sir, they meet international standards... >> ok. i can see where this is going. let me say again, y'all need to go to cuba. i've been there and i've seen it, and i'm not in favor of this at all. and i can tell you, not only am i not in favor of it, i think it's the worst thing we could do. the worst thing that we could possibly do. mr. chairman, i apologize for my tone and i yield back. >> the chair now recognizes mr. ratcliffe for five minutes of testimony. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i will do my best to leave politics out of this, but i think we all have to acknowledge -- and hopefully my friend and colleague from across the aisle,
who i respect greatly, ms. rice, would agree with me -- we -- we have to acknowledge that, as he is often wont to do with a stroke of a pen, president obama did announce a dramatic shift in u.s. policy here, this time towards cuba. and we're all left to adjust to that, and i appreciate the witnesses being here. the department of homeland security obviously will be tasked with implementing and enforcing the new trade and travel regulations as a result of the policy changes that this administration wants to invoke. so i appreciate you all being here today to provide clarity. and regardless of tone, i think we've got a responsibility on this committee for oversight, and that oversight responsibility is to protect the american people as they travel. and so to that point, let me start with you, mr. fujimura. i want to make sure i understand all the facts straight here. so the u.s. embargo on cuba prohibits tsa from lending airport screening technologies to cuba, correct? >> so that's my understanding of the restrictions, that we are not allowed to provide training or equipment to cuba.
right. ok. and -- and likewise, the u.s. embargo prohibits the cuban government from buying these types of high-quality checkpoint screening equipment from the united states. >> so that's my understanding, as well. >> ok. and i know from mr. mizell's testimony there's some question about whether cuba has or -- or, in fact, lacks the equipment that -- that the united states would deem necessary to conduct some aspects -- important aspects -- of screening, like explosive trace detection equipment and properly trained bomb-sniffing dogs. and i think it's been further evidenced that the cuban government apparently only has two full-body scanners, located in havana. is that correct? >> sir, it would -- we -- we
can't discuss in this open setting the specifics of what equipment or what capabilities are in cuba right now. ok. >> but i think focusing on technology is focusing on one element of a security system that involves people, processes, and technology. well, that's why i'm including >> all of these different questions that we have about what we know that they're not able to obtain, what we know that they -- we -- they can't purchase from america, what we're not able to provide to them. and so if the obama administration's looking to authorize -- and i understood it to be 10 lpds, or last points of departure, airports in cuba; there is some discussion about whether it may be seven or six. but if -- if they're lacking this equipment to the tune that we believe that they may, what -- how does tsa plan to certify that cuba has the necessary equipment and personnel to -- to detect potential threats to the united states? >> sir, we send down teams of tsa inspectors on an annual basis to cuba to look at these airports that are currently operating as last point departure airports.
they look at people, process, and technology against the international standards set out by icao. they have -- they're professionals. >> and so let me stop you, because i heard you say that before and that -- that they meet international standards and you send them down annually -- "annually" meaning once a year, right? right? >> yes, sir, but... >> ok. so -- so is tsa going to certify the standards that the cuban government is employing with respect to airport safety? you send inspectors down. are they going to provide some sort of certification? >> sir, it's not a certification per se, but it's -- it's an assessment that they meet international standards and that service can proceed. >> ok. let me shift to you, mr. wagner. according to the state department, cubans continue to favor land-based entry at u.s. points of entry, particularly through mexico. what's the current policy for
cubans that enter the united states without proper documentation at points of entry? >> well, as per the -- the cuban adjustment act, we would parole them into the united states and if there's any, say, national security derogatory-type information or if there's any type of risk we have the option of having them detained until a -- a hearing before a judge. >> ok. and so what will the policy of the united states be if a cuban immigrant arrives at an airport without proper documentation? >> it's the same policy. >> ok. and so do you have any -- i'm from a border state; i'm from texas. do you have an opinion as to what you expect to see in terms
of the number of asylum declarations at -- at points of entry based on this shift in policy? >> we are seeing the numbers increase from last year to this year. ok. i see my time is expired. i yield back. >> thank you, mr. ratcliffe. the -- the chair now recognizes mr. perry for five minutes of questioning. >> thank you, mr. chairman, for indulging me and for providing this privilege for me to sit on the panel here. mr. mizell, in an april 12th letter i sent to the secretary regarding cuba and aviation security i asked about the goals of annual visits by cuban officials to the u.s. and to our airports, which have been occurring since 2010. in its response to my letter dhs stated the visits involved the exchange of technical information on aviation security and best practices. "exchange of technical information." my concern and curiosity in -- in speaking with you is about what we're giving to them; not what we're getting from them particularly, but what we're giving to them. given cuba's history as a counterintelligence state, that is -- this is extremely concerning to me. as you know, cuba is ruled by a government hostile to the united
states with close relationships to other u.s. adversaries, including china, russia, and north korea. indeed, russia and china both have listening posts, some of the largest in the world if not the -- the largest on the planet, at lourdes and bejucal. i think personally it's outrageous to think that dhs is sharing our information with cuba when they know they will very likely share it, if not just plain give it to our adversaries. so my questions are these what exactly, precisely, specifically constitutes technical information that we shared with the cubans? was any information shared regarding security operations or security equipment? was any of this information classified, confidential, sensitive but unclassified, law enforcement sensitive, for official use only, or sensitive security information? and what assurance do we have as americans that this information won't or hasn't already been leaked to our
adversaries? let me start by saying the reciprocal visits with the cuban government representatives began in 2011. we do it annually. and part of the reason we do that is because we have free access into cuba to conduct required airport assessments and air carrier inspections. without those reciprocal visits, i'm not sure we would have this access. so it's important to have those visits. we give them an opportunity to observe our checkpoints and how we operate them, the throughput that occurs. we don't share any ssi information with them. it's -- it's a sharing of best practices, basically. perry: so let me ask you this: would you -- if i were to ask you, since we're sharing, right? sharing is a two-way street, right? i give you something; you give me something.
i give you something, you give me something. that's sharing or exchanging, which the terminology "exchange" is used here as opposed to "share." would you be able to tell me what we, as the united states, have gotten from those visits that we wouldn't have known already -- that we wouldn't know already? and if you know, sir, please let me know. mr. fujimura: sir, one of the key elements of flights coming to the united states involve secure flight information. this is the data transmission of passenger manifests that come from all flights, including crew, coming from cuba. so we get that information from cuba for the -- for the public charters that are coming to us. so this is information that we're getting that's fed into customs and border protection and is acted upon-- rep. perry: i understand that, but, see, i feel like we've got this reciprocal agreement where we should get something and, of course, they want something, right? so we should be able to be getting something that we can't otherwise get.
what's in -- in other words, what's in it for the united states? because we're going to give up some of our information. best practices, like for me, quite honestly, as a layman who has just used this -- this system and i've never worked in the system, but what best practices is cuba using that -- that we need to get to use in the united states? mr. fujimura: cuba is a member of icao, the 191 members. perry: right. fujimura: as a member of the international -- international aviation community, we have a shared goal in -- in security of our passengers around the world reaching their destination safely. that's a shared goal we have with the -- with the cubans and the 189 other members. rep. perry: i understand the shared goal. i'm looking -- it says "best practices," and it says that we talked about technical information on -- on -- on security and -- on aviation security and best practices.
rep. perry: i want to know some examples. i want to know what we're getting that we wouldn't get otherwise. we're giving them access to our airports -- new york, jfk, and miami, fort lauderdale, and tampa, atlanta. it's all listed here and when the dates they came to america. they're interested in collecting information. i'm not dumb and neither are they. they know we're interested in collecting information, right? we get this. but we're america. we're the free country. they're the communist country. i want to make sure that we're not giving them something, and then certainly when we're not getting anything in return. and quite honestly, you haven't -- neither of you have -- have allayed my fears and my concerns that that's happened. and -- and quite honestly, sir, mr. mizell, i asked about classified, confidential, sensitive but unclassified, law enforcement sensitive, for official use only, or sensitive security information. is this -- is it -- does this need another setting to discuss that? because you didn't -- you didn't enumerate any of those. you didn't just say, "no, none of those are included," which
would be an answer that would be great to hear but i'm concerned it's not. mr. mizell: none of those have been included on their visits to the united states. rep. perry: none of those were included on their visits to the united states. mr. mizell: yes, sir. rep. perry: they have none of that information. mr. mizell: correct. rep. perry: all right. thank you, mr. chairman. i yield. rep. katko: thank you, mr. perry. rep. katko: i -- a couple quick follow-up questions for -- mr. fujimura, you mentioned the icao standards as -- as something that gives you some sort of comfort, i guess, in -- in the airport quality of their -- their security. is that correct? mr. fujimura: sir, under 44907 (ph) it's based in statute that this is the basis. the icao (inaudible) are what we begin our airport assessment program from. so it's -- it's -- it's encapsulated in statute. rep. katko: correct. and i understand that. and so just so i understand, do you know if sharm el-sheikh or mogadishu were airports that met the icao's minimum standards? mr. fujimura: they are not last point departure airports, sir, so i do not know definitively whether they met them or not,
sir. rep. katko: ok. rep. katko: now, mr. mizell, a couple quick questions. i understand you're saying what you told us in a secure setting was sensitive, and of course, i take issue with that. but let's -- let me ask you something a different way and see if you can't get to the inquiry here. how many of those last point of departure airports have you visited? mr. mizell: there are seven last point of departure airports, six of which are operational. i visited all of them. rep. katko: ok. and the seventh one that's not operational, did you visit -- visit that, as well? mr. mizell: yes. rep. katko: ok. let me -- i want to ask you about -- about what you personally observe when you're going through these airports, if i may. the first thing is, in any of those seven airports did you observe any explosive trace detection equipment anywhere? mr. mizell: again, you've asked this question previously, sir, about equipment that's available. it's not something we want to discuss in this setting. rep. katko: i understand. but this -- i'm asking based on
your personal observations, not what's considered security sensitive. so the question is, what -- based on your personal observations, did you observe any explosive trace detection equipment at any of these airports?mr. mizell: again, sir, i'm not going to discuss that in an open meeting like this. rep. katko: are you saying your personal observations are -- are sensitive -- sensitive and secure, ssi? mr. mizell: i'm saying that the question you're asking about that is sensitive with regard to equipment. rep. katko: from a classified setting or something? i -- i just want to understand what security setting you're saying -- secure -- security clearance you need to have before i can discuss this. i'm -- i'm not asking about what you told us in a secure setting, i'm asking based on your personal observations. mr. fujimura: sir, if i may? rep. katko: yes, sir. mr. fujimura: so on those travels mr. mizell would have been traveling on an official passport in his official capacities as a tsa representative whose portfolio includes cuba. so his observations would be part of a -- a government effort there, as it were. so again, i would again ask that we could take this to -- if we could take this to a different setting and to articulate the -- more details for you. rep. katko: just so i understand, so you're not going to answer the question in this setting. is that correct? mr. mizell: is that to me, sir? rep. katko: yes. mr. mizell: yes, sir. rep. katko: ok. now, would that be the same question with respect to body scanners, whether or not there are body scanners in any of these seven airports you -- you visited? would you give me the same
answer that you're not going to answer it in this setting? mr. mizell: that's correct, sir. rep. katko: ok. and would that be the same answer that you would give with respect to the seven airports that you visited whether there is any document verification equipment at any of these airports? mr. mizell: that's correct, sir. rep. katko: ok. and just so i'm clear -- and i'm not meaning to quarrel, but just want to understand -- what security level are you saying applies here? mr. fujimura, you can answer that or mr. mizell can. mr. fujimura: sir, the -- the presence of security equipment and procedures is -- is ssi. rep. katko: ok. so you're saying this is all ssi. mr. fujimura: i would want to go back and review with my -- my subject matter experts on security back at headquarters, but that's my understanding. but i -- i stand open to be corrected by -- by true experts in-- katko: ok. let's handle it this way then, since we're not going to get to the bottom of this today. why don't we do this: why don't you, if you could, sir, within 10 days, consult with them and then give us an answer of whether or not you believe each of those questions are -- warrant ssi label on them.
and then if they do not, then i ask that you respond to those questions in writing. will that be fair enough, sir?mr. fujimura: and you not your head, so that means yes? mr. fujimura: all right. thank you very much. rep. katko: no, it's quite all right. i understand. rep. katko: all right. ms. rice, do you have any further questions? rep. rice: no. rep. katko: ok. rep. katko: mr. perry, do you have any further questions? rep. perry: i do, if -- just to finish up, if -- if you will allow, sir, mr. chairman. rep. katko: yes, sir. rep. perry: mr. mizell, my first question was what exactly constitutes "technical information" that was shared with the cubans? was any information shared regarding security operations or security equipment -- "technical information"? mr. mizell: nothing was shared with respect to technical equipment.
rep. perry: and in the memorandum of understanding under j it says, to coordinate in the area of transportation security the screening of cargo, travelers, and baggage, and the design -- design of secure, efficient inspection facilities at ports and airports. rep. perry: anything regarding design other than the layout? when you say "design" i just want to make sure what we're contemplating. mr. mizell: no, sir. the design is what you would see walking through the airport at the security checkpoint. rep. perry: i yield. rep. katko: thank you, mr. perry. rep. katko: ms. rice, you have no further questions? ok. thank you. i would like to thank you for your testimony today. and members of the committee may have some additional questions for the witnesses, and i would ask you to respond to these in -- in writing. pursuant to committee rule 7(e), the hearing record will be held open for 10 days. but, mr. fujimura, i would ask that you get to me on those specific questions. and we'll -- we'll delineate
them in writing so you have them. you can tell us which ones you believe are of a -- an ssi nature. and without objection, the subcommittee stands adjourned. thank you. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2016] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org]