A new bipartisan bill would eliminate the congressional mandate for the Department of Homeland Security to scan all U.S.-bound cargo in foreign ports for radiation by 2012.
The bill is one of two measures introduced this week that would reauthorize the 2006 law known as the SAFE Port Act (PL 109-347), which aims to improve maritime and cargo security through layered defenses. One of those layers has involved pushing the scanning and X-ray imaging of cargo away from U.S. ports to the points of departure overseas. Technological and logistical challenges, however, along with difficulties securing the cooperation of foreign governments, have slowed the process. Last week, Customs and Border Protection head Alan D. Bersin called for an alternative approach.
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs ranking Republican Susan Collins of Maine and Patty Murray, D-Wash., responded to that call when they introduced their reauthorization bill, saying they want to drop the 2012 scanning deadline. The senators said the X-ray scanning technology that CBP has deployed, the reliability of which the agency has called into question, is not perfected. Their bill, as yet unnumbered, would eliminate the 100 percent requirement until Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano certifies that such security measures are effective.