Below is an excerpt of a piece I wrote for US News & World Report about members of Congress, including the Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, calling for Customs and Border Protection to get in gear and meet their crazy congressional mandate of scanning 100 percent of all maritime cargo. They claim TSA did it with air cargo, so why can’t they do it?


Back in 2006, before George W. Bush’s approval ratings dropped through the basement into somewhere around the fourth circle of hell, it made political sense for the congressional Democrats to attack the Republican administration on cargo security. They were fighting to regain control of Congress and had to show that they, too, were capable of protecting the American people from another terrorist attack. They found themselves an effective–if inaccurate–sound bite in accusing the administration of screening a mere 5 percent of cargo coming into the country.

Now that the 100 percent screening mandate for air cargo has come and gone, the usual suspects are turning their attention to maritime scanning. In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (again) accuses the department of ignoring the will of Congress and not even trying to meet the requirement to scan all cargo coming into the country.

The effort to ignore the ludicrous intent of Congress has been bipartisan, starting with both secretaries under President Bush (Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff) and now Napolitano under President Obama. The reason for trying to ignore the congressional mandate–according to all three secretaries, the thousands and thousands of professional security officers working in DHS, and most independent security experts–is that it is impossible to meet and, more importantly, less effective than the risk-based, layered security model on which the Department of Homeland Security was founded.

But why let most of the security experts in the world get in the way of the will and superior wisdom of Congress?

Read the full story at US News & World Report.

Chris Battle founded Security Debrief as a forum for the homeland security community to discuss pressing issues and current debates in national security, counter-terrorism and law enforcement. After a long fight against kidney cancer, Chris passed in August 2013. Read More
  • Gustavo Bottan

    It is simple. If it takes 2 to 10 minutes to interpret an X-ray image of a cargo container, there are no manpower and space resources available to do 100% inspection. Risk-based approaches are the only possible approach. This issue has been articulated, debated and politicized as a black or white solution. No one has achieved visibility in this discussion promoting the concept that you can physically inspect cargo in larger numbers (even 100%) if you just do so to clear them from carrying a nuclear weapon. If the issue could be framed this way, there are technologies and approaches that could physically clear all containers being shipped to the US without disrupting the flow of commerce.