Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas

This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, January 15, 2003, that was edited for clarity. Click here for complete access to all of Neil Cavuto's CEO interviews.

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NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Another issue to get you agitating, this one concerns Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison who is very anxious about air travel these days. Very anxious. She's discovered that more than 20 percent of all freight hauled around in this country makes its way over passenger jets, freight that is not screened, and largely is not checked.  Senator Hutchison joins me right now.

Senator, thanks for coming.


CAVUTO: How bad is this, Senator?

HUTCHISON: Well, we certainly need to do something about it. We have done so much to secure the top of an airplane and now we just need to make sure that everything in the belly of the airplane is just as safe.

CAVUTO: So am I to understand, Senator, I was under the misimpression here that we were screening every package, everything that went into a passenger plane, we're not doing that?

HUTCHISON: No. It is not being done. Air cargo is the one area that we don't have strict regulations. We don't have inspection regimes. And I'm trying to, well, put a law, a bill in place today to try to tighten that up, to give the Transportation Security Administration the requirement that they put together a security plan for cargo and that they have the ability to decertify cargo carriers.

CAVUTO: Senator, I guess I'm just shocked that we haven't done this some time ago. In fact, right after September 11 we seem to have protected passenger planes every other way, from the people who work on them to the food to the people that ultimately makes its way to those planes, to the people who man the gates and the terminals, how did this slip through?

HUTCHISON: Well, you know, it took us six months or so to get the checked baggage to have the same screening requirements that baggage you take on the plane does. We now have that in place. The last little part is cargo. Air carriers don't carry mail right now because we don't have the security system in place. They need to be able to carry it because it would be a good part of their revenue. But we need to have a system, if they go back to carrying mail, and for all packages where we know where a package has come from and we have a progression throughout the system and we know who is handling it. We want to make sire that the people who are handling any kind of cargo have security clearances. That's true now for anyone who handles a bag. But we need to make sure that cargo is in the same category.

CAVUTO: So let me understand this, Senator, the way things are now, we think we're protected when we get on the planes, all that, but that there literally could be a ticking time bomb right underneath us. And there's no system in place right now to monitor that?

HUTCHISON: Well, Neil, I wouldn't go that far. Because, of course, we do have a lot of due diligence. But we just don't have a system in place where we can say that everything has been checked or everything has been monitored or that we have a seal on packages that would show that it has.

CAVUTO: But Senator, how do you know? In other words, let's say you're a savvy terrorist and you're looking for a way to blow up an airplane, how are you going to know that the package you're sending is going to be earmarked for a passenger flight so that you can do what you want to do?

HUTCHISON: Well, you probably wouldn't. You could, but it is a very complicated process. You have freight forwarders so that a package will be delivered by the person sending it to a freight forwarder. The freight forwarder then processes it and puts it into the air cargo. And then we have some planes that carry just cargo. So we have to have a seamless system to make sure that all of our packages are safe so that when they hit the ground they are still going to be safe, if it is not a passenger plane.  And of course, if it is a passenger plane, we want to have the same requirements that we have for baggage.

CAVUTO: All right. Senator, thank you very much for joining us.  Some very disturbing developments. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison on Capitol Hill.

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