Right On The Money

From “AMERICA The Vulnerable”, by Stephen E. Flynn, Ph.D. —

“Despite increased awareness, we still offer our enemies a vast menu of soft targets: water and food supplies; chemical plants; energy grids and pipelines; bridges, tunnels and ports; and the millions of cargo containers that carry most of the goods we depend upon in our everyday lives. The measures we have cobbled together to protect these vital systems are hardly fit to deter amateur thieves, vandals, and smugglers, let alone determined terrorists. Worse still, small improvements are often oversold as giant steps forward, lowering the guard of the average citizen and building an unwarranted sense of confidence.”

From this website’s Vol. II, Art. 6 – “All? Or Nothing!”—

“If you haven’t yet read Dr. Stephen Flynn’s book, “AMERICA The Vulnerable”, do yourself a favor. Read the book. Dr. Flynn makes it clear that:
• Foreign-based inspectors are not being adequately trained by Customs personnel.
• Foreign-based inspectors can inspect “only the tiniest of percentages of containers”.
• The government is fighting terrorism overseas while refusing to provide adequate protection to the vulnerable superstructure at home.
• Instead of providing a general report of our vulnerabilities, the government refuses to be candid with its citizens.
• The many millions of containers that arrive in U.S. ports each year pose the greatest vulnerability, but not enough is being done to respond to the terrorist threat in this sector.”

Again, from “AMERICA The Vulnerable” —

“In 2000, I wrote an essay published by FOREIGN AFFAIRS which included a scenario describing how Osama bin Laden might exploit our perilously exposed transportation system to smuggle and detonate a weapon of mass destruction on our soil. The article led to invitations to conduct briefings around Washington, D.C. In those pre-9/11 presentations I maintained that these attacks would involve more than the loss of innocent lives, but would generate a spasmodic response to shut down the entire transportation sector as public officials struggled to determine what happened. This would be followed by a rash of poorly conceived new security mandates to reassure an anxious American public. The resultant economic and societal disruption would be precisely the kind of outcome that groups like al Qaeda aspire to achieve. My conclusion was straightforward. Given the enormous stakes, we should make transportation security a priority before terrorists strike. These briefings proved to be enormously frustrating …

“Despite all the rhetoric, after the initial flurry of activity to harden cockpit doors and confiscate nail clippers, there has been little appetite in Washington to move beyond governmental reorganization and color-coded alerts … Homeland security has entered our post-9/11 lexicon, but homeland insecurity remains the abiding reality.”

In his Washington briefings prior to 9/11, Dr. Flynn was speaking of “resultant economic and societal disruption … precisely the kind of outcome that groups like al Qaeda aspire to achieve”. Was he right or was he just guessing?

The MILKEN INSTITUTE did a study that estimated the short and long-term costs of 9/11, and it looks as though Dr Flynn was right on the money [no pun intended]:

“Outside of the loss of human life, the immediate hit was about $ 53 billion. In the weeks that followed, another $ 47 billion disappeared thanks to lost economic output in the U.S. economy. Plus another $ 1.7 trillion that disappeared from the U.S. stock market. Then the costs really started to add up …

“Airlines and aerospace, tourism and travel, hotels and motels, restaurants, the postal service and the insurance industry all suffered. Just in the first month, at least 125,000 people lost their jobs. Another 1.6 million jobs evaporated over the next year. And businesses retooling for the new ‘terror economy’ had to spend an extra $ 151 million …

“You might remember pundits having plenty to say about how quickly we recovered from the attacks. Yet new estimates put the uncovered costs, so far, at close to $ 2 trillion. And remember, this is only one event we’re talking about. You and your family pay roughly $ 450 every year in taxes to cover the cost of a bloated Homeland Security agency. The same agency, by the way, whose air marshals have been caught sleeping on planes … and who hold up flights with huge security lines … and whose inspectors still let weapons and even dummy explosives slip through security.

“You can never know how much a ‘war on terror’ will cost … because fighting terrorism is like fighting a hurricane. You can see it forming on the radar screen. You know when it’s headed your way. But you don’t know what to expect when it lands … or how much it will cost you over time:

• Every enhanced cockpit door on a plane costs $ 30,000.
• Screening every bag carried by airline passengers will cost taxpayers an extra $ 4.7 billion just for this year.
• $ 10 million to teach bus drivers how to deal with terrorist passengers.
• $ 2.5 billion dollars for highway security.
• $ 22 million to teach terrorism techniques to truck drivers.
• $ 20 million to renovate Homeland Security headquarters.
• $ 70 million for a Homeland Security fellowship program.
• The Homeland Security Bill alone asked for $ 290 billion.
• The Department of Defense budget alone, over the next decade, could set us back as much as $ 5.7 trillion.”

Trillions of dollars are being thrown at questionable solutions, and still no security is assured. The frosting on the cake is the “Department of Defense budget alone” mentioned above. As Dr. Flynn points out in “AMERICA The Vulnerable, “We spend more on conventional military muscle than the next thirty countries combined”.

Today is April Fool’s Day but it’s no different from the1,662 days that have elapsed since 9/11/01. One way or another, we Americans are being taken for fools. On March 28th of this year Dr. Flynn once again briefed a Washington, D.C. committee. He addressed the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and his thoughtful analysis startled all … knowing the amounts that have been spent in the past 1,662 days.

As you read the following segment of his testimony, keep in mind the briefings he gave to the Washington elite prior to the 9/11 attacks. His predictions were right on the money back then, but few gave credence to his admonitions. Because today we have the benefit of 1,662 days of hindsight, maybe now we’ll take note of his statement that “… homeland insecurity is the abiding reality”.

Dr. Flynn: — “Let me share with you the terrorist scenario that most keeps me awake at night that I recently shared with the House Armed Services Committee …

“A container of athletic foot wear for a name brand company is loaded at a manufacturing plant in Surabaya, Indonesia. The container doors are shut and a mechanical seal is put into the door pad-eyes. These designer sneakers are destined for retail stores in malls across America. The container and seal numbers are recorded at the factory. A local truck driver, sympathetic to al Qaeda, picks up the container. On the way to the port, he turns into an alleyway and backs up the truck to a nondescript warehouse where a small team of operatives pry loose one of the door hinges to open the container so that they can gain access to the shipment. Some of the sneakers are removed and in their place, the operatives load a dirty bomb wrapped in lead shielding, and they then refasten the door.

“The driver takes the container now loaded with a dirty bomb to the port of Surabaya where it is loaded on a coastal feeder ship carrying about 300 containers for the voyage to Jakarta. In Jakarta, the container is transferred to an Inter-Asia ship which typically carry 1200-1500 containers to the Port of Singapore or the Port of Hong Kong. In this case, the ship goes to Hong Kong where it is loaded on a super-container ship that carries 5000-8000 containers for the trans-Pacific voyage. The container is then off-loaded in Vancouver, British Columbia. Because it originates from a trusted name-brand company that has joined the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terror, the shipment is never identified for inspection by the Container Initiative Security team of U.S. customs inspectors located in Vancouver. Consequently, the container is loaded directly from the ship to a Canadian Pacific railcar where it is shipped to a rail yard in Chicago. Because the dirty bomb is shielded in lead, the radiation portals currently deployed along the U.S.-Canadian border do not detect it. When the container reaches a distribution center in the Chicago area, a triggering device attached to the door sets the bomb off.

“There would be four immediate consequences associated with this attack. First, there would be the local deaths and injuries associated with the blast of the conventional explosives. Second, there would be the environmental damage done by the spread of industrial-grade radioactive material. Third, there would be no way to determine where the compromise to security took place so the entire supply chain and all the transportation nodes and providers must be presumed to present a risk of a potential follow-on attack. Fourth — and perhaps most importantly — all the current container and port security initiatives would be compromised by the incident.

“In this scenario, the container originated from one of the 5,800 companies that now belong to the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism. It would have transited through multiple ports — Surabaya, Jakarta, Hong Kong, and Vancouver — that have been certified by their host nation as compliant with the post-9/11 International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code that came into effect on 1 July 2004. Because it came from a trusted shipper, it would not have been identified for special screening by the Container Security Initiative team of inspectors in Hong Kong or Vancouver. Nor would it have been identified by the radiation portal. As a consequence, governors, mayors, and the American people would have no faith in the entire risk-management regime erected by the administration since 9/11. There will be overwhelming political pressure to move from a 5 percent physical inspection rate to a 100 percent inspection rate, effectively shutting down the flow of commerce at and within our borders. Within two weeks, the reverberations would be global. As John Meredith, the Group Managing Director of Hutchison Port Holdings, warned in a Jan. 20, 2004 letter to Robert Bonner, the former Commissioner of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection: ‘… I think the economic consequences could well spawn a global recession — or worse.’

“In short the stakes are enormous. But there are four factors associated with this scenario that I just laid out that usefully informs the focus of this hearing. First the threat is not so much tied to seaports and U.S. borders as it is to global supply chains that now largely operate on an honor system because the standards are so nominal. Second, no transportation provider, port operator, or border inspector really knows what are in the containers that pass through their facilities, and the radiation portal technology currently being deployed at U.S. borders and as a part of the Second Line of Defense and Megaports programs can be evaded by placing light shielding around a weapon. Third, private companies must be a part of the solution because they have huge investments at stake. Fourth, the scenario I just laid out involved Vancouver as the offload port in North America, highlighting that the challenge of securing global supply chains can involve both port security and border security measures simultaneously.

“I believe that we are living on borrowed time when it comes to facing some variation of the scenario I have just laid out. This is because both the opportunity for terrorists to target legitimate global supply chains remain plentiful and the motivation for doing so is only growing as jihadis gravitate towards economic disruption as a major tactic in their war with the United States and the West …

“On its face, this vast menu of U.S. government initiatives since 9/11 suggest substantial progress is being made in securing the global trade and transportation system. Unfortunately, all this activity should not be confused with real capability. For one thing, the approach has been a piecemeal one, with each agency pursuing its signature program or programs with little regard for the other initiatives.”

[Likely “dirty bomb” attacks … trillions of dollars mispent … 1,662 days … and we’re worse off now than when we started. For a fraction of those “trillions” we could revitalize our shipbuilding industry, create a few hundred thousand new jobs, retrofit container ships with our patented storage, retrieval and inspection systems, and be rid of the terrorist threat once and for all. Why should we be placing our trust in folks overseas who don’t like us to begin with? With exclusionary Jones Act thinking, we should be building and manning our own vessels, and conducting effective inspections aboard ship and prior to arrival at a U.S. port. Dr. Flynn would then get a decent night’s sleep.]