Lawmakers finally received a response to questions about U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) searches of general aviation aircraft on domestic flights, but they remain unsatisfied. The response came from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the umbrella federal agency that includes CBP. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) received a letter and a table reporting more details about some of the incidents, but Roberts and Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) were not fully satisfied and sent a letter on February 12 requesting a briefing and more written responses from the DHS.
The agency cited FAA regulations and statutes as the authority for stopping GA aircraft without probable cause or reasonable suspicion of illegal activity. To add to the confusion, the list of incidents is incomplete and contains contradictory information. For example, of 95 CBP stops and searches reported by the DHS for Fiscal Year 2011, the letter claims agents found 11 criminal or regulatory violations, but the accompanying table lists only four. And while the letter to Roberts says CBP found a 12-percent violation rate in its stops, the table of data provided by the DHS shows a 4-percent violation rate. Similar discrepancies were found in the information provided for other years as well.