Questions Surround Proposed Homeland Security Facility In Abu Dhabi

The Department of Homeland Security wants to establish a pre-clearance screening facility for travelers in Abu Dhabi, but some wonder whether it makes sense.
A U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Officer restrains a suspect at Dulles International Airport in Virginia. CBP would operate the proposed pre-clearance facility in Abu Dhabi. Photo/James Tourtellotte

A U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Officer restrains a suspect at Dulles International Airport in Virginia. CBP would operate the proposed pre-clearance facility in Abu Dhabi.
Photo/James Tourtellotte

By Steph Dingbaum

Why focus on a small airport when there are long lines at airports here in the U.S., wonders Airlines For America Senior Vice President Sean Kennedy.

In an interview with TRNS, Kennedy questioned the wisdom of constructing the new facility, which would be the first of its kind in the Arab world. According to Kennedy, Abu Dhabi’s airport only flies 573 people a day to the U.S., compared to London’s Heathrow airport, which flies more than 10,000 passengers a day and has no pre-clearance facility.

From a security standpoint, Kennedy said he doubts that the facility would discourage terrorists from boarding planes headed from Abu Dhabi to the U.S.

“If they are trying to deter folks by putting up a facility in Abu Dhabi, it stands to reason that folks would simply go to other airports if they were headed towards the United States,” he said.

Kennedy argued that the money DHS would spend on building the facility would take funding away from airport security in the U.S. He argued that the administration should be staffing U.S. airports to expedite domestic air traffic.

Currently, there is legislation in the House and the Senate that would address this issue. In addition, Kennedy’s organization has sent letters to the administration arguing that a pre-clearance facility in Abu Dhabi will not help the U.S.

“At the end of the day, customs resources should be devoted to where there is need, where there is risk and where there is a back log and right now we have that in spades here in the United States and we should not be sending dollars to Abu Dhabi as a result,” said Kennedy.

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