Port Security and the Liberal-Left's 5% Myth

by Jim Kouri, CPP

Many news media reports and political leaders such as Senator Chuck
Schumer (D-NY) and Democrat National Committee chairman Howard Dean
frequently state that the Department of Homeland Security inspects only about
5 percent of the over 10 million sea containers entering the country
each year. That 5 percent figure erroneously implies that 95 percent of
sea containers receive no attention or scrutiny at all from customs

While partisans are creating a frenzy over this issue, the media should
educate the American people about the difference between anti-terrorism
and counter-terrorism operations. Anti-terrorism operations are those
that are defensive in nature and visible security measures, while
counter-terrorism operations are offensive in nature and usually classified.
Counter-terrorism includes developing information, identifying targets
and taking out those targets in covert actions. Anyone who says they
can provide security that is 100% effective is either a liar or a fool.

Truth be told, it is impossible -- IMPOSSIBLE -- to check every
shipping container off-loaded at US seaports. If such an endeavor were
possible, the negative impact on the US -- even the world -- economy would be
staggering. The cost of such an endeavor to consumers would also create
adverse economic conditions in the US. Nevermind the billions of
dollars that would be spent on manpower and resources in order to check every
single container.

The truth -- which is being withheld from Americans -- is that US
Customs and Border Protection screens the data and information for all of
the millions of cargo containers arriving in the US each year; and
closely scrutinizes and examines all shipments identified as high risk. The
CBP has developed a multilayered process to target high-risk shipments
and provides a fast lane for legitimate cargo. In fact, according to the
CBP, examinations of sea containers are a small part of this process.

The CBP goal is not to search five percent, 10 percent, or even 50
percent of the cargo at our nation's borders and ports of entry. US Customs
and Border Protection thoroughly screens and examines 100% of the
shipments that pose a risk to our country and they are doing that today. The
goal is to screen these shipments before they depart for the United
States whenever possible. There are US CBP officers throughout the world
working with foreign governments in screening shipments leaving those

CBP receives electronic bill of lading/manifest data for approximately
98 percent of the sea containers before they arrive at US seaports. CBP
uses this data to first identify the lowest risk cargo being shipped by
long-established and trusted importers.

In the year 2000, nearly half a million individuals and companies
imported products into the US. But 1,000 companies -- the top two-tenths of
one percent -- accounted for 62 percent of the value of all imports.
Some shipments for these companies are still randomly inspected, but the
vast majority is released without physical inspection.

Following 9/11, the CBP and major importers joined forces in the
Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism. C-TPAT is a cooperative effort
to heighten security of the supply chain. Under C-TPAT, the high volume
importers agree to take stringent security steps. In return they
receive far less scrutiny at the border.

CBP has also partnered with the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency
(CCRA) to prescreen sea containers under the Container Security Initiative.
Under this program US and Canada Customs have placed inspectors at one
another's major seaports. Cargo arriving in Halifax, Montreal and
Vancouver destined for the US is prescreened in Canada by targeting teams
consisting of both Canadian and US Customs inspectors.

Conversely, cargo arriving at the seaports of Seattle/Tacoma and Newark
and destined for Canada is prescreened at these US ports by Canadian
and US Customs inspectors. Similar agreements are under discussion with
major European and Asian seaports to ensure safe and secure flow of
commerce around the world.

CBP uses an Automated Targeting System (ATS) to automatically flag the
highest risk shipments. This powerful rules-based computer system sorts
through records stored in a massive database that contains detailed
information on every shipment that has entered the United States over the
past 10 years. ATS screens each ship's electronic manifest, comparing
and analyzing the information with this database.

US Customs and Border Protection has special targeting teams that
further analyze data before the ship arrives at a US port. US Customs
inspectors and analysts use their many years of training and experience to
help identify anomalies in shipping information.

US Customs and Border Protection inspectors use full-truck gamma ray
and x-ray machines to scan the contents of containers. These units can
scan the interior of a full-size 40-foot container in under a minute.
Specially trained dogs check for traces of narcotics and currency.
Inspectors use personal radiation detectors to scan for signs of radioactive
materials. Inspectors also use such special high-tech tools as
densitometers and fiber-optic scopes to peer inside suspicious containers.
Finally, if necessary, containers are opened and unloaded for a
lengthy, more thorough carton-by-carton inspection.

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