The March issue of MARINE LOG included a letter from Charles Dragonette, Senior Analyst, Civil Maritime Analysis Department, Office of Naval Intelligence. It’s a “must read”, and we’ve been asked to highlight this analyst’s observations for those who don’t subscribe to MARINE LOG. Charles Dragonette, by the way, is the producer of the Navy’s “Worldwide Threat to Shipping Report”, so his words are not to be taken lightly.

Expressing dismay when reading an article headlined, “Maritime Terror: The Threat is Real”, this ONI analyst makes it clear that he is not at all comfortable with an FBI assertion, issued through an AP interview, that, “There have been any number of attacks on ships that have been thwarted”. Here’s a portion of his letter:

“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. No one in industry will be served in their legitimate security concerns by such assertions. What is a ship owner, manager, operator, or crew to do with the information? It appears that the game is to make industry so scared that it will put up with anything in the way of interference or regulation, but in reality that only harms security; it does not enhance it one bit. This is a game that industry does not have to consent to play.

“Crews and ships are demonized as security threats, when they represent the best set of eyes on the waterfront in terms of identifying what is abnormal. The best security device for the maritime industry is to take that industry with its depth of experience and common sense into real partnership. That means that activism at all levels of government needs to be tempered by voices of maritime experience. Customs and Coast Guard, two pillars of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), cling to their cherished regulatory roles. Let them stop prescribing, regulating, and demanding — and listen, carefully, to the voice of industry. All our security interests will be better served at far less cost.”

As the old-timers would put it, “The more you meddle, the more you muddle”. That’s the advice this ONI analyst is offering, and the April 6th headlines from “Homeland Security Week” show why his criticism is justified. Take a look at this hodge-podge of meddling and muddling.

1. Border agency nearly “overwhelmed”, chief says.
2. Panel chiefs agree on first responder formula fix.
3. Commission: Problems plague intelligence community, despite reform efforts.
4. Industry team forms to provide private screening at airports.
5. Report outlines options for improving DHS security structure.
6. DHS issues plan for national preparedness.
7. Group launches system to link emergency agencies.
8. DHS beefs up security along Arizona-Mexico border.
9. Arizona border program gets more agents but no drones.

Remember now, the ponderous Department of Homeland Security is supposed to have this nation’s “security” as its primary objective. That’s why they put the word “Security” in the title. Right? The agency didn’t even exist before 9-11 because security concerns were never on the front burner until that unfortunate event. At last count, however, 170,000 people are now employed by the DHS, and many questions are being raised with respect to the Department’s lack of coordination and purpose. On a television interview this past Monday, Commissioner Robert Bonner stated that the Border Patrol was “almost … being overwhelmed” by illegal immigration and that the Bureau has launched a “full-court press” to gain control of U.S. borders. The second phase of the Arizona Border Control Initiative was set in motion last week when 500 more federal agents and 23 aircraft were assigned to the 370-mile stretch of the Arizona-Mexico border. The new national border patrol strategy, released last week with little publicity, codifies that the Border Patrol’s priority mission is to prevent terrorists and terrorist weapons from gaining entry to the United States. The plan gives no timelines or significant milestones to measure success, but states that because measuring the effectiveness of any law enforcement program is “complex”, there is no one way to measure the effectiveness of this effort to combat terrorism. [And in our ignorance, we’ll just keep throwing money at the problem.]

Reiterating claims made by other administration officials that “al Qaeda has contemplated using Mexico as a transit area to move terrorist operatives” into the U.S., Mr. Bonner admitted, however, that “We know of no evidence right now that they’ve done so, but we know that they have thought about doing so, and that’s enough to be concerned.” This is what’s known as speculative fantasy, and the Border Patrol obviously relied on such speculation and fantasy when they apprehended about 400 illegal aliens in 2004 “for terrorism or national security concerns”. Mexican President Vicente Fox has flatly denied that any evidence shows “al Qaeda” plans to cross into the U.S. from Mexico. He told reporters, “In the case of terrorism, we don’t have any evidence or any indication either that terrorists from ‘al Qaeda’ or any other part of the world are coming into Mexico and going into the United States, and if there is any of that evidence, we will like to have it. But, as I said, it does not exist”. Mr. Dragonette’s criticisms above are right on the money. “Uncritical acceptance and repetition of security scare tactics serve no useful purpose … It appears that the game is to make industry so scared that it will put up with anything in the way of interference and more regulation”. [Not just industry, we might add, but taxpaying U.S. citizens as well.]

Wouldn’t it be much more practical to focus our attention and resources on a truly vulnerable area? On Saturday, January 15th, thirty-two Chinese immigrants were seen climbing out of a container after it had been offloaded in the Port of Los Angeles. They were spotted by an alert crane operator, and not by U.S. Customs. We covered that story in our Vol. II, Art. 6 commentary. Prior to that incident, and especially since that incident, we’ve been given assurances that “100% of high risk” containers undergo sophisticated scanning and inspection. Yeah, right! Just this past Monday morning, April 4th, twenty-nine more Chinese nationals were found wandering around a cargo area in the Port of Los Angeles. They were caught when seven of the men injured themselves attempting to scale fences. With the millions of containers that arrive annually at this port, the question must be asked, “If our security measures cannot detect bungling illegal aliens, are we supposed to believe that scheming, intelligent terrorists will be caught?”

[Our patented system, scanning/inspecting EVERY container, detects everything and everyone.]