February 23, 2006

U.S. Seaports Deal and the Nuclear Terror Threat

The controversial Dubai Ports deal has spurred heated debate about the widsom of having foreign-owned corporations overseeing management of our national ports of entry. One of our main unsolved port security issues is the problem of uninspected freight containers, which some experts contend may be the route through which nuclear materials or devices could most easily be smuggled into the U.S. for use in a a terrorist attack. From the New York Times's "Big Problem, Dubai Deal or Not":
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 [retired Coast Guard commander Stephen E.] Flynn, the ports security expert.

That is where concerns about Dubai come in. While the company in question has not been a focus of investigations, Dubai has been a way station for contraband, some of it nuclear. Abdul Qadeer Khan, the Pakistani nuclear engineer, made Dubai his transshipment point for the equipment he sent to Libya and Iran because he could operate there without worrying about investigators.

"I'm not worried about who is running the New York port," a senior inspector for the International Atomic Energy Agency said, insisting he could not be named because the agency's work is considered confidential. "I'm worried about what arrives at the New York port." [read full article, reg. req.]

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