BONNER: CUSTOMS USING LAYERED STRATEGY TO TIGHTEN SECURITY
U.S. Customs Commissioner Robert Bonner said Monday in Washington that the agency has employed domestic and international partnerships calling for the sharing of information on shipments and containers, as well as technology, to prevent terrorists from smuggling a weapon of mass destruction into an American port.
Bonner said these measures may not be foolproof. However, the system in place offers a layered approach to sort out inbound containers which may pose a threat to America. Customs inspectors and analysts examine information about incoming shipments, and make judgments about which shipments to examine prior to arrival at a U.S. port.
Bonner said the agency has developed two initiatives with U.S. firms, the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, and with foreign governments under the Container Security Initiative, to address security domestically and globally.
“These separate, but related programs, help to increase the security of both individual shipments, as well as the entire global trading system as a whole,” Bonner said.
Bonner said some shipments are inspected after they are deemed as “high risk,” when compared to a database of information on cargo that has entered the United States over the past 10 years. “Our systems use hundreds of rules to identify the high-risk cargo — the cargo on which we need to focus our attention,” Bonner said.
Bonner said Customs and the departments of State, Defense and Energy are carrying out training programs to detect smuggling of nuclear and radiological materials in Europe and Central Asia. This program has resulted in seizures of nuclear and radiological material in Bulgaria, Kazakhstan and several other countries.
Bonner was surrounded by Customs inspectors and the modern scanning systems in use to inspect shipments of suspicious cargo. Some of the technology included hand-held radiation-detecting devices, mobile gamma-ray scanning machines, and devices that can detect shipments for vapors from explosive materials.
About 4,000 personal radiation detectors are being used by Customs inspectors. Customs plans to purchase 4,500 more of those pager-sized detectors by January 2003, the agency said.