Flights bound from Puerto Rico to the U.S. mainland may be vulnerable to having bombs placed on board, according to the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.
“In Puerto Rico, we have many cases of prosecution of corruption, of putting drugs and weapons on airplanes inbound to the United States,” Representative Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican, said on “Fox News Sunday,” according to a transcript.
“It wouldn’t take a whole lot to put a bomb on one of those airplanes as well. And I think that’s a main thing from the homeland security standpoint, we’re really worried about these planes coming into the United States,” the lawmaker said.
McCaul was commenting on domestic security threats in the face of suspicions that an explosive brought down a Russian jetliner over Egypt on Oct. 31. People purporting to represent Islamic State have claimed that the downing of the jet was retaliation for Russia’s bombing the extremist group in Syria.
The Associated Press reported Sunday that Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport, the flight’s origin, had security problems, including lax searches and a frequently malfunctioning baggage scanning device.
McCaul compared the event to the terrorist attacks that struck the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001, saying that for Russia, “this is comparable, I would think, to a 9/11 for them that they have to deal with.”
The Puerto Rican governor’s office and its Federal Affairs Administration did not immediately respond to e-mails on Sunday seeking comment on McCaul’s remarks.
McCaul has previously pointed to drug and terror risks emanating from Puerto Rico. The U.S. territory is facing a debt crisis and is currently at risk of running out of cash, which may force it to cut back on public services.
In 2012, McCaul held a hearing to highlight “America’s unprotected Caribbean border,” saying Puerto Rico is a conduit for cocaine being directed to U.S. East Coast cities and distributed throughout the nation.
Shipments of contraband are unlikely to be inspected by U.S. Customs once reaching Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean region is “susceptible to smuggling nuclear, radiological, chemical, and biological materials,” according to a June 2012 statement on his website.