Nonproliferation experts say the congressional mandate to scan all maritime cargo for radiation before it reaches U.S. shores is a woefully ineffective way to ward off a potential attack and threatens to eat up resources that would be better spent elsewhere.
Customs and Border Protection has argued that the goal is unrealistic, telling Congress that it would cost too much money, rely on scanning technology that has thus far proven unreliable and require extensive negotiation with a host of countries that might not warm to the idea of reorganizing their ports to comply with U.S. security standards. But some leading lawmakers — among them House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss. — have insisted that the agency can and should hit the 100 percent mark by 2012.
That would be a mistake, says former Air Force Col. Randall Larsen, who served as executive director of the congressionally created Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism. “It’s security theater,” Larsen said. “It makes people feel better, it makes a lot of money for contractors, but it doesn’t make us any safer.”