A Roll of the Dice

Susan Kohn Ross is a partner in Rodriguez, O’Donnell, Ross, Fuerst, Gonzalez & Williams, in Los Angeles, and specializes in Customs, international trade and transportation law. She joins those who have been waving caution flags about the inadequate measures taken by the Department of Homeland Security, and she doesn’t pull her punches. Here’s a sampling:

“Isn’t it about time Congress took the time to do a proper job instead of passing laws which, in retrospect, look to be passed strictly for the sake of seeming to have done something? Isn’t it about time to talk about the white elephant in the room that everyone wants to ignore? While it is true the efforts of the government have made it that much more difficult for targets of opportunity to be found, if we learned anything from 9/11 it is that terrorists don’t act rashly or happen upon an opportunity. They act after much planning and effort. So, do you really feel any safer than you did on September 10, 2001?”

Attorney Ross’ dissatisfaction is an echo of what we’ve been hearing on a regular basis from any number of recognized authorities in security related fields, but in every case the critic has been put down by someone connected in some way with the administration. There’s always an alibi or a denial in response to the constructive criticism being offered, and the natural consequence of being in denial is that shortcomings persist. For example: time after time various references have been made to the limited number of imported containers being inspected by Customs personnel in our container ports. Estimates provided by reliable authorities range from 4% to 10%, but without fail we’re assured by government personnel or government agencies that “100%” is a more accurate figure. The system, we’re supposed to believe, has been perfect since day one. Well, not quite. Everyone but the DHS is now paying attention to the white elephant in the room.

It seems as though the DHS is proficient in just one area; they know how to “shake up the troops”. Beyond that, the department has accomplished very little. On two occasions this year undocumented Chinese have been caught leaving the confines of offloaded containers in the Port of Los Angeles after the container had been positioned in the terminal. This gives the lie to the “100%” inspection rate perpetrated by Customs officials, and causes one to wonder how many such groups of sequestered Asians have landed on our shores and have escaped detection by Customs..

The 100% figure is a blatant bit of disinformation and everyone knows it. The 4% to 10% range is also an inaccurate estimate. AVANTE, located in Princeton, NJ, is a pioneer in RFID technology, and stated just last week that less than 2% of the containers arriving in U.S. ports are being inspected. Ms. Ross reminds us that “terrorists don’t act rashly or happen upon an opportunity. They act after much planning and effort”. In other words, terrorists aren’t relying on a roll of the dice. They’re deliberate. They’re intelligent. And they’re not getting caught.

[We’d catch ‘em, though. Our patented system would inspect the 100% of incoming containers that Customs can only dream about.]