On Deaf Ears

Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Long Beach Mayor Beverly O’Neill, Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton and Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca were seen together at a February 23rd meeting in the Port of Long Beach administration building. No, they weren’t having a luncheon meeting, they were holding a press conference, right where the action is, and at least a dozen local leaders were in attendance at a discussion concerning the security problems at the LA/Long Beach complex. Reminding her listeners that although the port complex is the largest in the nation and the third largest in the world, Senator Feinstein called the complex the “soft underbelly of homeland security”. She noted that about 13 million shipping containers come into U.S. ports each year, but only 5% are inspected. “A successful tourist attack on a busy port such as Long Beach/Los Angeles could have a devastating impact on lives, on property and also on our economy,” she added.

Citing the imbalance in the allocation of security grants, the Senator revealed that the Port of NY/NJ, the next largest U.S. port, receives twice as much per container than is allocated to LA/Long Beach. Further, she said, a report issued this month by the Homeland Security inspector general showed that Arkansas, a landlocked state with no seaports, received six port security grants. Senator Feinstein acquainted those in attendance with her two new pieces of legislation, co-sponsored by Senator John Cornyn, R-Texas, aimed at shifting more homeland security grants to higher-risk ports and expanding the scope of maritime terrorists laws.

Senator Feinstein, in a very diplomatic way, is pointing out that the right hand doesn’t know what the left one is doing. Her concerns are justified, but like so many other concerned members in Congress, her hands are tied by the unwieldy Department of Homeland Security. In a “Congressional Research Service Report for Congress”, it clearly states that: “A terrorist Hiroshima-sized nuclear bomb (15 kilotons, the equivalent of 15,000 tons of TNT) detonated in a port would destroy buildings out to a mile or two; start fires, especially in a port that handled petroleum and chemicals; spread fallout over many square miles; disrupt commerce; and kill many people. By one estimate, a 10- to 20-kiloton weapon detonated in a major seaport would kill 50,000 to 1 million people and would result in direct property damage of $50 Billion to $ 500 billion, losses due to trade disruption of $ 100 billion to $ 200 billion, and indirect costs of $ 300 billion to $ 1.2 trillion.”

This report was made available to every member of Congress, but pleas for appropriate action have fallen on deaf ears. In this report five former Los Alamos nuclear weapons experts stated that a crude nuclear weapon “could be constructed by a group not previously engaged in designing or building nuclear weapons, providing a number of requirements were adequately met.” Senator Feinstein’s concern is a legitimate one because the threat is a legitimate one. Why do DHS personnel probe and paw 100% of our nation’s airline passengers, and at the same time ignore 95% of imported intermodal containers? For a fraction of the funding being allocated for airport security, every U.S. terminal could be retrofitted with our patented storage, retrieval and delivery systems, all of which are equipped with x-ray scanning equipment positioned to inspect 100% of imported and exported intermodal containers. Are we waiting to lock the barn after the horse has been stolen?