The Obama administration has failed to meet a legal deadline for scanning all shipping containers for radioactive material before they reach the United States, a requirement aimed at strengthening maritime security and preventing terrorists from smuggling a nuclear device into any of the nation’s 300 sea and river ports.
The Department of Homeland Security was given until this month to ensure that 100 percent of inbound shipping containers are screened at foreign ports.
But the department’s secretary, Janet Napolitano, informed Congress in May that she was extending a two-year blanket exemption to foreign ports because the screening is proving too costly and cumbersome. She said it would cost $16 billion to implement scanning measures at the nearly 700 ports worldwide that ship to the United States. ...Washington Post
This isn't good news. But is it the fault of the Obama administration? Not hardly.
Here are some excerpts from a May 2006 radio interview with the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security. He had just become a whistleblower about the Department's failures. Inspector General Clark Kent Ervin talked with journalist Steve Roberts who asked, "At the core, of course, is the argument that America is still very vulnerable to attacks in the homeland. Give us your take: how vulnerable are we?"
Inspector General Ervin: We're very vulnerable indeed. Now, to be fair, we've taken some steps since 9/11. We've done a lot in some areas. Aviation, for example. But even where we've done the most -- spent something between 18 and 20 billion dollars on aviation -- it's still easier than it should be to penetrate our defenses. For example, just a couple of weeks ago, as you know, Congressional investigators reported that they were able to sneak bomb components through 21 airports in our country -- even though they went out of their way to attract the attention of screeners. With regard to the lack of sense of urgency that we have, just last week Secretary Chertoff announced that we're going to start checking the backgrounds, the names, of port workers against the terrorist watch lists! Well, that's a great idea, but why are we doing that only now?! Five years, almost, after 9/11! And 3-1/2 years after the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and a year and a half into his tenure! On the one hand we haven't done very much and the reason for that is, we lack a sense of urgency about just how vulnerable we are.
...At both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue people make a distinction between defending our interests abroad and defending us here at home, and the President says we need to kill and capture as many terrorists overseas as possible because otherwise we'll have to confront them here at home, he fails to recognize, I'm afraid, that America itself now is a battlefield in the war on terror and that as battlefields go this one -- the one here at home -- is the most vulnerable. ...It is at the very top of the list for me, Steve. As you know, there are about 26,000 containers that come into our ports every day. All the experts agree that the most like way for a terrorist to smuggle a weapon of mass destruction into this country is our seaports. And you also know that only about 6% of those containers are inspected. So we don't know anything about the other 94%. For all we know, a weapon of mass destruction has already been smuggled into this country.
...I don't typically call for greater government spending. But I think it's telling that the Pentagon's budget is almost exactly ten times the budget of the Department of Homeland Security. $400 billion+ vs. $40 billion+. Homeland Security is expensive. Having nuclear radiation detection machines at our ports costs a lot of money! We need this money. So this is a time, it seems to me, to redirect some of our spending from where we're less threatened abroad to where we're more threatened and more vulnerable, namely here at home. ...The Scribe
Ervin goes on to talk about the role Congress played in ham-stringing Homeland Security.
The clincher comes during the interview when a caller to the show has this to add:
Roberts: Let's talk to some of our callers and get their views on this issue. First up is Dee, who's behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler, I gather. Thanks for calling!
Dee: Hi....I thank you for speaking up on this because I drive, of course, all over the country and deliver and pick up at so many different places -- ports, submarine bases, army bases. They never check in the back of my trailer. Never. They don't ask for a passport when I go into the port. And the biggest laugh that I've seen is our Homeland Security building whose loading dock is UNDER the building! And no one looks in the back of the trailer. ...The Scribe
Honest, I don't think the problem with Homeland Security is an Obama problem! Do you?