Bush signs cargo scan legislation
President George W. Bush on Friday signed into law legislation implementing the unfinished homeland security recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.
Included in the act is the requirement that the Department of Homeland Security set up imaging and radiation detection systems at foreign ports to scan all ocean containers within five years.
The provision was vigorously opposed by industry groups involved in international trade. But Democrats were able to win Senate agreement for the strict inspection regime despite concerns that the technology and logistical arrangements to conduct such operations in busy ports are not well developed. The House voted for the measure at the beginning of the year.
Opponents argued that trying to inspect all cargo would be prohibitively expensive and would result in bottlenecks, slowing transit times for companies that rely on international shipments.
The legislation provides DHS some leeway in implementing the inspection by allowing it to seek two-year extensions for ports that are unable to set up systems or if the detection machines are not commercially available. The operational and diplomatic hurdles to implement the program are extensive, raising the possibility that the program may never get off the ground without the cooperation of countries around the world.
“I will also continue to work with Congress to ensure the workability of the cargo screening provisions in a way that increases our vigilance on homeland security while ensuring the continuance of vital commerce,” President Bush said in a signing ceremony statement.
The legislation also requires all cargo on passenger planes to be inspected within three years.