Waste not, want not …

This past September Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE) introduced a bill to establish a security trust fund. He announced just last week that this fund would be called the Homeland Security Trust Fund and would provide $ 53.3 billion over a five-year period for the purpose of screening all containers arriving at U.S. ports.

According to reports from Senator Biden’s office, a major portion of the funds would be derived from the rollback of the president’s tax cuts. The new trust fund is to be used to provide 100-percent screening of containers and to fund research for screening technology.

“In 2006 alone, the Bush tax cuts for millionaires will exceed $ 60 billion,” Senator Biden said. “For that we could implement the 9/11 Commission recommendations.”

“We must reorder our priorities and focus on protecting American people.” he added.

But here’s how others look at it.

“NEWSLINE (December 8, 2006)

“Experts say new U.S. port security will not stop nukes.

“Nuclear researchers believe that US Homeland Security Department measures to screen US-bound cargo at six overseas ports will not stop smuggling of nuclear material.

“Peter Zimmerman of King’s College London and Jeffrey Lewis of Harvard University, both nuclear security scientists, say anyone planning a nuclear attack on the United States will probably do so on American soil.

“The Bush administration recently unveiled a $ 60 million program to scan US-bound cargo for nuclear and radiological material at ports in Pakistan, Oman, South Korea, Honduras, Britain and Singapore.

“However, analysts note that simple packaging material like aluminum foil could shield smuggled uranium from detection.

“Is such screening equipment sufficient to protect American ports around the world from terrorism activities?

“Justin Teo spoke to Dr. John Harrison from the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies in Singapore for more.

“JH (John Harrison): ‘I think it addresses some issues that if you were going to smuggle an explosive from external into the US maritime environment, having screening is important. However, I think it would be more likely, particularly in the scenario of using a dirty bomb, that such a device would be created within the United States itself. So while you would never say don’t protect from some threats, I think the threat of smuggling a nuclear or in particular, a dirty bomb or any radiological device, is probably fairly low.’

“How will these new security measures affect the work flows at these ports?

“JH: ‘Well, it depends on how you do it. There is no practical way of screening everything. So what you would do is screen suspicious cargo. For cargo like a nuclear device, it’s probably going to be hidden in a leased container in an effort to shield the radiation from being detected. So that in itself would show that there is something in there which is being prevented from screening. So screening measures would perhaps help with the possibility of smuggling something in but that is a fairly low probability to begin with, I’m not sure such measures would have a major impact on security.’

“Some researchers believe that the most effective means of protecting against nuclear terrorism is to drive up the black market price of fissile material by upgrading security at nuclear facilities. How true is this?

“JH: ‘I think there is something to that. However, if you’re looking to build a nuclear device, then, yes. But what is more practical and indicative of most terrorist groups is to use a dirty bomb and it is very difficult to control that type of material because there is so much of material. You can get it from hospitals, you can get it from photo labs, you can get it from industrial plants, you can get it from smoke detectors. There are so many sources that it would be difficult to control that type of activity.’

“Is such strict screening being implemented for land and rail cargo entering the US?

“JH: ‘It’s getting there but it’s not there yet. Largely because most of the rail and land cargo that enters the US comes specifically through the sea or air routes where if the cargo comes from overseas, they would have been screened or potentially screened. But the cargo is also coming from the land borders of Canada and Mexico where there is some but limited screening.’

“How does the increasing interest in civilian nuclear energy around the world complicate security measures?

“JH: ‘I think tremendously, I think you hit on the key point, that outside the countries where the nuclear industry is already fairly advanced in terms of years, the security is better but not perfect. So many new countries are looking at it for the energy potential and while this is appropriate, they are not adequately thinking about securing both the plants and the facilities themselves. They are also not addressing adequately the issue of nuclear waste, because the waste in itself could be used in a nuclear bomb. So the issues are much more complex than what many countries have adequately addressed at this point.’”

[All anyone talks about is nuclear waste. Isn’t an additional $ 53.3 billion funding also a “waste”?]