Lawmakers are continuing to put pressure on Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to detail and justify stops and searches of general aviation aircraft that are flying within U.S. borders. Eight Senate Republicans wrote Homeland Security acting Secretary Rand Beers seeking a report by Nov. 15 on every stop and search since 2009 and the reasons behind the searches.
“The abrupt increase in the number of stops and searches of personnel aboard general aviation aircraft raises concerns that CBP may be violating our citizens’ Fourth Amendment rights,” says the letter, led by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Jim Risch (R-Idaho.) “We do not disagree that agents working with CBP have limited authority to stop a plane and ask for proof of an airman certificate, medical certificate, authorization or license. However, we wholly disagree with agents demanding access to search an aircraft without reasonable suspicion or probable cause.”
The letter follows a request by Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) in September for an Inspector General investigation into the searches. It also follows the recent release of a CBP proposal seeking to change status of certain records, including those involving the aircraft stops, that would make them unavailable for public review.
“The timing of the [proposal] and the short period allowed for public comment raised alarm bells,” says the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, which has cited reports of more than 40 stops. AOPA has filed a number of Freedom of Information Act requests on the stops. Those FOIAs have not been answered.