In case you missed it …
1. From Chris Koch, World Shipping Council President and CEO —
“As industry addresses the issues involving in efficiently moving over 11 million U.S. import containers this year, we also must continue to address the unfinished task of enhancing maritime security, and do so in a way that doesn’t unreasonably hamper commerce.”
2. From Margaret T. Wrightson, Security Specialist, U.S. Government Accountability Office —
Ms. Wrightson said that her agency, which is the investigative arm of Congress, found that a lack of coordination within the Department of Homeland Security is hindering efforts to safeguard ports, which are critical to the US economy and world commerce.
3. From the International Trade Commission —
In a study released in mid-May, the ITC report stated that border-clearance procedures, including customs and inspection, represent the greatest impediments to the supply of global logistic services. The report also suggests that reduction or removal of the impediments that affect logistics services could lead to increases in U.S. merchandise exports.
4. From The Maritime Safety Committee of The International Maritime Organization —
The US is seeking voluntary disclosure of all information about a ship that may be anywhere within 2,000 nautical miles of the country, but several countries, India, China, Iran and Russia, closed ranks to oppose the move, on the grounds that it would be in violation of the UN Conference on the Law of the Sea. The move would also require an amendment to Chapter 12 of the International Convention for the Safety of Life At Sea (SOLAS), which prescribes safety measures for bulk carriers. Most countries have opposed the US move.
5. From The International Herald Tribune —
In a speech in January, Robert Bonner, Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, called containers “the potential Trojan Horse of the 21st century. A 40-foot container loaded with ammonium nitrate would create a huge blast, 10 to 20 times that of the Oklahoma City bombing,” Bonner said, “But the sum of all fears is a ‘nuke-in-a-box.’” Until last month, importers enrolled in the Customs incentives program — known as Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism — were automatically designated as a lower risk. Containers shipped by them are inspected once every 306 times, instead of once every 47 times, Customs officials said, permitting faster movement of goods to warehouses owned by Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Lowe’s, and other companies. Officials acknowledged that so many businesses had enrolled that the agency had granted thousands of preferential security clearances without determining whether the companies had improved security measures. “Trust, don’t verify,” is the slogan some critics have given to the program.
6. From “DER SPIEGEL” (By George Mascolo)
“Fear can be a lucrative business. That, at least, is what American companies selling security gadgets are finding out as the US government continues to spend billions of dollars on a variety of different Homeland Security programs. The only problem? Most of them are useless. “Clark Kent Ervin, 46, is one of those people on whom the US president likes to depend. The staunch republican is an old friend from Texas who once worked for George W. Bush in the governor’s mansion and who, on Bush Junior’s recommendation, managed to get a job in Bush Senior’s administration. Ervin is an amiable man who is usually quick to smile. The exception? When you mention his last employer — the two-and-a-half-year- old US Department of Security. The problems at the bureaucratic behemoth
— with its 180,000 employees — are myriad, says Ervin, a graduate of Harvard. ‘I’ve never experienced anything like it before,’ he says.
“And now Ervin, appointed by his friend Bush to the position of highest- ranking internal auditor on the homeland security front, is suddenly without a job. His reports on the chaos, corruption and wastefulness at the department were so thorough and full-throated that he became a liability to the president. Since Ervin was forced out of the department, the gold rush-like mood in the American security industry, whose excesses were at the center of Ervin’s complaints, has continued unabated.
“The business of fear in the United States of America has been booming ever since September 11, 2001, and the price tag for the protective cordon of high- tech gadgetry intended to keep the US safe from more terrorist attacks is enormous … The total 2005 Homeland Security budget weighs in at a whopping $ 50 billion — roughly equivalent to the gross national product of New Zealand …
“‘The market is growing at an incredible rate,’ gushes the Security Industry Association at its ‘networking lunch’ with members of Congress and administration officials …
“The American news magazine US News & World Report calls the booming business ‘Washington’s version of a Turkish bazaar’ …
“To this day, the harbor nuclear detectors are incapable of distinguishing between bombs and kitty litter or bananas, leading frustrated customs officials to simply shut them down. The new $ 1.2 billion explosives detectors for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), a part of Homeland Security, are equally unreliable … “According to a government study, thus far only four of the Department of Homeland Security’s 33 homeland protection programs are considered 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.”
[Meanwhile, the nation’s real imminent catastrophe — gridlock — is being ignored and unfunded.]