Wrong Venue for Cargo Airline’s TSA Dispute

     WASHINGTON (CN) – The D.C. Circuit must handle a cargo operator’s challenge to U.S. Transportation Security Administration security-screening procedures, a federal judge ruled.
     Amerijet International sued the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the TSA and TSA Administrator John Pistole last year, accusing the agency of dumping numerous noncompliance penalties on it for not passing security protocols.
     The penalties stemmed from a security directive that TSA issued in the wake of a 2010 Yemen-based terrorist plot to detonate explosive devices on board two all-cargo aircraft traveling to the United States.
     Those new requirements for full all-cargo aircraft operators like Amerijet required that their security programs “describe the procedures, facilities, and equipment employed to ‘prevent or deter the carriage of any unauthorized persons, and any unauthorized explosives, incendiaries, and other destructive substances or items in cargo onboard an aircraft,'” U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras wrote Thursday.
     Two months after the security directive was issued, Florida-based Amerijet allegedly requested and received permission to utilize two adjustments to the screening requirements. It said the agency nevertheless went back on its approval and levied civil penalties against it for noncompliance on multiple occasions.
     “Relevant to the dispute before this court, Amerijet alleges that the TSA has granted its competitors’ requests for similar alternate procedures, including permitting competitors to utilize the Security Directive’s cargo screening exemptions for which the TSA determined Amerijet was ineligible,” Contreras wrote.
     The cargo airliner claimed the TSA’s enforcement of the screening requirements was arbitrary and capricious, but the judge accepted the TSA’s argument that “exclusive jurisdiction to review the TSA’s aviation security orders rests with the federal courts of appeals.”

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