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Portman Unclear on Flight Ban for Countries With Ebola Outbreaks

Portman Unclear on Flight Ban for Countries With Ebola Outbreaks

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), a member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee appeared to avoid giving a clear statement on banning flights from countries that have experienced mass outbreaks of the Ebola virus on CNN’s “@This Hour” on Friday.

Portman was asked whether he agreed with CNN Aviation Analyst Mary Schiavo, who earlier argued that allowing flights from the Ebola presented a “unique threat vector.” Anchor John Berman said that this position was surprising because Schiavo usually takes a “keep calm and carry on” position.

Portman responded, “I think in general we need to be more aggressive in addressing this and I’ve called for that in the past month, and at a minimum, let’s do active screening. As you know, we are not acting in a way that we should be in terms of asking passengers where they have been, where whether they’ve been in contact with someone who’s had Ebola, and that’s one reason we’re having the issues that we’re having. So, right now it’s what’s called a passive questioning. If someone exhibits the symptoms, then the Customs and Border Patrol folks are allowed to take them aside, but it should be more robust. I don’t understand, frankly, why the CDC isn’t insisting on that and directing our Customs and Border Patrol folks to do that.”

Later, when he was asked why passengers would tell the truth when they were screened, he stated “they’re required to tell the truth under law. As you know, they can be prosecuted if they don’t tell the truth, so it needs to be seriously undertaken by both the exit screening and entrance screening, but let’s at least ask the question.”

When Berman pressed the issue of a flight ban again, Portman seemed to be more open to a ban, saying “that’s something we ought to look at, John,” but then adding “I do think the countries in west Africa have a strong interest in ensuring that there are adequate exit screening and that they’re working with us to avoid issues on those flights, because for their economy this would be a huge problem, but I think that’s something we’re going to have to look at because if we don’t get more serious about this it will spread.”

Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett

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