On November 26th Tom Andel quoted a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security as follows:
“One of the greatest threats to all trading partners and to the U.S. is the potential for terrorists to use the international container system to smuggle weapons or even terrorist operatives into the country. They could even turn cargo containers into weapons. If even a single one of those containers goes off, the destruction to trade and to the economies of the world would be enormous … Every U.S. port would close for more than a week … The backlog of container traffic would require 92 days to clear … The Dow would drop at least 500 points and cost the U.S. economy $ 58 billion … A terrorist attack in a U.S. port would spread economic ripples around the world …”
That DHS spokesman was the keynote speaker at a program sponsored by the Northeast Ohio chapter of the Warehousing Education and Research Council, so it wasn’t just an off-the-cuff remark. We printed that quote just two days ago, in our Art. 24 commentary, and on the very same page we also provided this quote from the November 20th issue of the Hackensack, NJ, “Record’:
“Federal authorities will soon bring online 12 new gates that can detect whether a container passing through has nuclear material inside, closing a gap in port security that allows such materials to enter the United States.” The report also stated that “Since February 2004, the customs department has installed the detector gates at four of the six terminals in New York and New Jersey ports. But these monitor only 65% of trucks leaving the port …” That’s what the report states … “leaving the port…”
But the DHS spokesman above clearly pointed out the enormous losses in the event of … “A terrorist attack in a U.S. port …” That’s what he said, “… in a U.S. port …”
On the one hand, an agency of the Federal government is spending enormous amounts of money chasing shadows, and on the other hand another Federal agency is just now realizing (we hope) how terrorists could most effectively cripple the world’s economy. When the acknowledged danger is the activation of a nuclear device within a container terminal, does it make any sense to misspend millions (billions?) in an attempt to intercept nuclear material on the way out of our nations ports?
Or was George Mascolo correct in his “Der Spiegel”article earlier this year when he wrote:
“According to a government study, thus far only four of the Department of Homeland Security’s 33 homeland protection programs are considered to be effective, leading the new Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, to promise Congress that he’ll be taking a closer look at how the department spends its millions. But despite Chertoff’s promises, the booming industry’s prospects remain as rosy as ever. Indeed, the Secretary recently told a gathering of 400 industry executives that the government still depends on their help. ‘We need to make America a safer place,’ he said — to roaring applause.” [Go figure.]