Going Back and Forth

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) projects that it will cost $ 3.1 billion to deploy advanced radiation detection equipment to screen rail cars, airports and seaports. This cost projection by GAO auditors contradicts the administration’s claim that it would cost only $ 2.1 billion for the 2,000 or so Advanced Spectroscopic Portals. This next generation detection equipment, it is claimed, makes it possible to differentiate between dangerous radioactive materials like terrorist bombs, and the safe, non-threatening kind, like kitty litter and ceramics. The $ 3.1 billion, we’re being told, will produce fewer false positives than the state-of-the-art detection technology taxpayers have been forced to buy since 9-11.

Currently, the LA/Long Beach ports get 400 to 500 nuclear alarms every day, and the new equipment could reduce that number to between 40 and 50. Customs personnel investigate those false alarms and the new detection equipment would reduce their workload, according to the administration. But couldn’t that “workload” be reduced by simply employing more personnel with that $ 3.1 billion instead of shelling it out for Advanced Spectrographic Portals? For one thing, a few thousand new jobs here and there would be created, and besides, didn’t Senator Byrd call the whole thing a hoax? He inserted that remark in the Congressional Register shortly after the “terrorist” attack on 9-11.

And the reduced amount of 40 to 50 alarms per day … would they all be “terrorist” bombs, or would they also be false alarms? And if they’re all false alarms, why bother with the scheme?

And didn’t Charles Dragonette, Senior Analyst at the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), dispute what was stated in an article headlined, “Maritime Terror: The Threat is Real”? In responding to an FBI assertion that “any number of attacks on ships” had been thwarted, Mr. Dragonette replied, “I would like to ask for any examples, let alone ‘any number’ of them. Uncritical acceptance and repetition of security scare tactics serve no useful purpose”.

And didn’t Customs and Border Protection Deputy Commissioner Jayson Ahern, in an address to the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America, insist that by calling for 100-percent scanning, members of Congress “are engaged in a conscious avoidance of reality”, thereby contradicting Customs’ container security doctrine for the past six years?

“Congress is unaware of its impact on global trade”, he warned. Foreign countries “will call for reciprocity. Think of the transportation cost”, he said. How cost-conscious all of a sudden! At no time, however, has Mr. Ahern criticized the billions of dollars granted to the 33,800 new security firms that have sprung up since 9-11, nor does he have reservations about the $ 3.1 billion outlay for the Advanced Spectroscopic Portals, even though Congress and the GAO have questioned the effectiveness of the system.

[Confused? So are we. A far lesser amount ($ 2.4 billion) is being requested by Galveston’s mayor for Hurricane Ike recovery efforts, but what’ll you bet that the administration awards the $ 3.1 billion to a security firm before it spends a dime on the firm security of Galveston’s hurricane victims?]