Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Real Deal on Ports

As Kevin Drum (generally a dissenter against the drumbeat on the Dubai port lease) rightly points out, the current brouhaha will be very useful to the country if it draws greater attention to the ongoing and potentially disastrous weaknesses in the security of our ports. In today's Washington Post, David Sanger explains the reality underneath the administration's trust-us talk:

The administration's core problem at the ports, most experts agree, is how long it has taken for the federal government to set and enforce new security standards — and to provide the technology to look inside millions of containers that flow through them.

Only 4 percent or 5 percent of those containers are inspected. There is virtually no standard for how containers are sealed, or for certifying the identities of thousands of drivers who enter and leave the ports to pick them up. If a nuclear weapon is put inside a container — the real fear here — "it will probably happen when some truck driver is paid off to take a long lunch, before he even gets near a terminal," said Mr. [Stephen] Flynn, the ports security expert.

Some of you may recall that John Kerry talked about this a lot during the last presidential campaign, to little avail. But then he didn't have the kind of "news hook" supplied by the Dubai lease controversy, right? And that's why it's important right now that we move as quickly as possible from that hook to the underlying vulnerability of our ports to the most critical threat post by terrorists: a nuclear 9/11. Even, and perhaps especially, from a political point of view, showing that the president who proclaims himself the living embodiment of the War on Terror can't be bothered to budget the money necessary to secure our ports is a lot more powerful an argument than highlighting his soft spot for big corporate contracts.

UPDATE: Turns out Matt Yglesias did a post at TAPPED this morning on the same subject, which also linked to an alarming study of security at the Port of Los Angeles published by the American Prospect last year. For dessert, Matt also pointed to an analysis of Sen. Rick Santorum's bad voting record on port security.
-- Posted at 12:30 PM | Link to this post | Email this post

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