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U.S. to Expand Cargo Scans to Detect Nuclear Material

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Joined: 05 Dec 2006
Posts: 570
Location: Tri-State

PostPosted: Fri Dec 08, 2006 4:26 pm    Post subject: U.S. to Expand Cargo Scans to Detect Nuclear Material Reply with quote
It's about time don't ya say?

WASHINGTON, Dec. 7 — All cargo sent by container ships to the United States from three ports — in Pakistan, Honduras and Southampton, England — will be scanned for hidden nuclear weapons or components starting next year under a federal antiterrorist program that some in Congress want to see mandated worldwide.

The program, called the Secure Freight Initiative, will require United States-bound containers before departure to pass through both a radiation detection machine and an X-ray device, a combination intended to find bomb-making materials that have intentionally been shielded.

It will cost a total of $60 million to set up the system in Pakistan, Honduras and Southampton, as well to begin scanning at least some United States-bound traffic from Korea, Singapore and Oman, officials said. The cost will be split by the Departments of Homeland Security and Energy, they said.

“There’s no weapon of mass destruction that is more formidable than a nuclear or a dirty bomb,” Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Thursday in announcing the plan.

Yet even as officials introduced the new effort, some antiterrorism experts were openly asking if it made sense. Some noted that the screening would take place only on container ships, not on ships that carry millions of tons of other cargo, including cars, fuel or goods placed on pallets.

The equipment to be used — while better than no screening at all — is prone to triggering false alarms and is unable to see through many items that might be inside a container, including frozen food.

And if the equipment is installed in only a small number of ports, terrorists could simply choose to send a bomb by container from somewhere else, they said.

“The good news is we will only waste $60 million,” said James Jay Carafano, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington.

Mr. Chertoff and other department officials acknowledged that they did not know how well the system would work, or whether it would cause unacceptable bottlenecks.

The radiation scan and X-ray image of each container will be transmitted electronically to the United States or to customs officials elsewhere, who will then be able to ask foreign officials at the ports to do more comprehensive searches.

“When in doubt, we pull it out and then we open it up and look at it,” Mr. Chertoff said.

But officials said that not all of the X-ray images would be checked — meaning that a shielded bomb could still get through.

Already at about 50 ports worldwide, at the request of the United States, governments are doing limited checks of suspicious containers before they are loaded onto ships bound for the United States. Also, as containers arrive in the United States, about 80 percent of them are screened for radioactive substances once they are off-loaded. But this will be the first time, at the request of the United States government, that all cargo headed to the United State is sent through both an X-ray machine and a radiation detection monitor.

Democrats in Congress want to mandate that all cargo be screened for radioactive material overseas before departing. Ultimately, Congress ordered that the program be tested at a small number of ports.

Homeland Security Department officials said they wanted to expand the program beyond the six ports, eventually covering about 30 percent of United States-bound cargo, compared with the approximately 7 percent that will now be screened. But Mr. Chertoff said he did not think it was realistic to mandate it globally. “If somebody says you have to make it 100 percent, and the foreign county does not agree, that is not a mandate that can be carried out,” he said.

Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, one of the leaders of the effort to impose the multipart screening, said that Democrats would probably give the Homeland Security Department some time to see how this test worked.

“The jury is out if this is a real turnaround,” he said.
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Joined: 08 Dec 2006
Posts: 45
Location: So Cali

PostPosted: Fri Dec 08, 2006 6:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
I think that this would be a great idea, if it would be false proof. When they talk about being in doubt then they would open it up... well, that would have to rely on the person who is inspecting at the time. What may be questionable to us may not be questionable to that person. As I was reading this, my first thought was well, all the terrorists would have to do is find a way to work around it, and I'm thinking that that wouldn't be too difficult. While it might slow down terrorist activity to an extent I don't think it will completely rid us all of terrorism.
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