Rubio: Obama Administration 'Outright Lied' About Air Marshals on Flights to and from Cuba
If you are planning a trip to Cuba, you might want to postpone it until an honest and trustworthy administration takes over that can ensure your safety.
A top TSA official admitted Wednesday that Cuba has not yet agreed to allow U.S. air marshals aboard scheduled airline flights between the the United States and Cuba — which means there have been no air marshals on board planes all year despite what the Obama administration has been saying. Hearing this, Senator Marco Rubio warned that flights from Cuba could be used to mount terrorist attacks.
At a House hearing, TSA Deputy Administrator Huban Gowadia confirmed that air marshals are currently only allowed on charter flights between the U.S. and Cuba because the Cuban government has yet to sign the agreement U.S. officials provided in August to expand that security protection to scheduled flights.
The disclosure comes after Seth Stodder, an assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Homeland Security, told the House Homeland Security Committee in May that new scheduled air service to and from Cuba would not begin until air marshals were allowed on board those flights. Additionally, in August, TSA provided the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, as well as reporters, a statement explaining that the United States and Cuba had “entered into an aviation security agreement that sets forth the legal framework for the deployment” of air marshals “on board certain flights to and from Cuba.”
Rep. John Katko, chairman of the Transportation Security subcommittee, told Gowadia during a full committee hearing that TSA "misled the American public when you issued that press release saying that it was going to be on select commercial flights."
“And you did it at a time right before the flights were about to start," he added.
Sen. Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, had a word or two he wanted to say about this on the Senate floor this afternoon.
"Basically, what we have here is an outright lie," Rubio charged. "Last month, with great fanfare the administration announced that the agreement had been reached, that there were going to be air marshals to and from Cuba on the commercial flights, and today they confirmed that they weren't telling the truth. There was no agreement finalized. On most, if not all of these flights, there are no air marshals. And this is endangering US passengers."
"This is a startling admission," Rubio continued. "They lied! They told us that these flights would not begin until they had reached an agreement with the Cuban government to have air marshals and other security measures in place. And today -- only because they were asked -- they admit that this is not happening. My friends, this is the latest example of an administration that is so intent on burnishing its legacy, on getting credit for this opening, that they're willing to throw everything else out the window."
"They are already ignoring the human rights violations," Rubio pointed out. "We have one of the leading human rights dissidents in Cuba on the verge of death because of a hunger strike - -and this administration hasn't said a word about it."
Rubio was referring to Guillermo Farinas, a Cuban activist who ended a nearly two-month hunger strike a couple of days ago because he thought the European Parliament was taking up his case. European Union officials however said they had no information taking any action on his behalf.
"They don't do anything about it. They don't highlight that case," Rubio complained. "Instead they're all celebrating and popping corks of champagne on these new flights -- that they told us were going to be safe because we were going to have air marshals!"
"This is outrageous!" Rubio exclaimed. "The TSA under the Obama administration has lied to us!"
Rubio brought up the bill he filed last week with Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) to stop all flights to Cuba until it was certain that the agreement was in place.
"And now we know for a fact that adequate security is not in place!" Rubio cried. "These flights should be suspended! Until such time as the agreement has been signed."
He added, "What it means is that these are now flights that are vulnerable. There's a reason why we have air marshals on flights, because of the experience of 9/11 ... and you now have flights 90 miles from our shores that could theoretically be commandeered and you could have a repeat of that."
"You have this situation where theoretically some terrorists can travel from any country in the world into Cuba and then try to come into the United States, commander an aircraft and I don't need to tell you what can happen next," he noted. "This is an incredibly dangerous situation."