House to End Ban on Courier Deliveries

Posted October 10, 2003 at 5:05pm

House officials are preparing to lift a two-year-old ban on couriers hand-delivering packages to Congressional offices, just weeks after the Senate issued a similar edict.

Under preliminary plans for the House’s new screening program, couriers will still be barred from delivering packages directly to Members’ office doors. But instead of being turned away, all items will undergo extensive scrutiny and then be delivered to their final destination.

The ban on courier-delivered packages began Oct. 16, 2001, the day after an anthrax-laced envelope was opened in then-Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle’s (D-S.D.) suite in the the Hart Senate Office Building.

The new House guidelines for deliveries will require couriers to bring packages to the Congressional Acceptance Site, a trailer facility on the north side of the Capitol grounds.

“Each of the items will have to be processed. They will have to be put in a plastic bag and that bag will go through the X-ray machine,” explained a House aide familiar with plans for the program. “Then each courier will have his or her photo taken. Then they will have another photo taken holding the item.”

The packages will also be swabbed to test for chemical or other substances, and if approved will then be sent to an off-site facility maintained by Pitney Bowes for additional screening and delivery.

A “clean” item will take between two and three hours to be fully processed, and up to a dozen items can be processed each hour.

Items that fail the swab test will be X-rayed a second time, retested and then sent to the off-site facility, delaying delivering time by up to 72 hours.

The Senate program, which began in early September, also operates through the Congressional Acceptance Site.

A spokeswoman for Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Bill Pickle said the system was created to allow for delivery of “infrequent” or “non-routine” packages to offices.

Although the Senate guidelines also require a photograph of each courier and testing of packages, the spokeswoman said once cleared, packages may be delivered directly to Senate offices and will not be transferred to Pitney Bowes. The facility has been processing about 20 packages each day.

Deliveries from Federal Express, United Parcel Service or other major carriers will continue to be sent to the Pitney Bowes site to be tested for anthrax and other substances before delivery to Hill offices.