DHS, WCO focus on IED precursor chemicals
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced in Brussels a new partnership with the World Customs Organization to enlist the international community and private sector in protecting against terrorists exploiting the global supply chain to plan and execute attacks, protecting critical nodes and transportation hubs from attack or disruption, and building resilience into the system so the freight network can recover quickly.
The WCO will work to build international consensus on strengthening cargo screening standards and deploying modern technology to better track and detect precursor chemicals that can be used to build weapons, the Department of Homeland Security said.
In a speech to freight industry stakeholders, security experts and government officials at the European Policy Centre, Napolitano stressed DHS's commitment to work with customs agencies and shipping companies around the world to keep precursor chemicals that can be used to produce improved explosive devices from being trafficked by terrorists.
Currently, through Project Global Shield'launched by DHS, the WCO, INTERPOL, and the U.N. Office of Drugs and Crime in 2010'60 nations are sharing information with each other to ensure that chemicals entering their countries are being used in safe and legal ways, leading to successful interdictions of a number of suspicious shipments, and providing promising investigative leads on the smuggling of precursor chemicals into Afghanistan and Pakistan.
'Governments across the globe can and must work together more closely to track the movements of products and technologies that can be used to make weapons across international borders. This means improved international standards, expanding joint investigations and interdiction operations, and strengthening how we target and screen potentially dangerous shipments across the globe,' Napolitano said, according to a copy of her speech posted on the DHS web site.
The announcement and Napolitano's speech focused on the danger of improvised exploding devices (IEDs), a departure from years past when the threat was characterized in terms of nuclear or radiological weapons of mass destruction that could be smuggled in containers through the supply chain.
In 2005, the WCO adopted international supply chain security standards based on the principles of risk management, use of non-intrusive detection equipment and information sharing among customs agencies. Most of the world has adopted the SAFE Framework of standards, but implementation in many countries has been slow. Linking together security regimes in each country into a global system has proven difficult because each country must enter into bilateral agreements with partner nations recognizing that their security standards and capabilities are aligned.
To expand Project Global Shield, governments must increase their use of risk-based targeting methods to help zero in on the most suspicious shipments, Napolitano said.
DHS will work with the State and Defense departments to provide equipment and training to partner countries so they can deploy databases for tracking illicit goods and machines that can detect precursor chemicals when customs agents come into contact with them.
The effort bears similarities to the Energy Department's Megaports Initiative in which radiation portal monitors are loaned to other governments to check ocean containers for radioactive material in ports.
In November, President Obama signed an executive order to create a new center to coordinate all U.S. government efforts on export enforcement and set up a government-wide statistical tracking system for export control enforcement activities. DHS will also work with hospitals, labs, beauty supply companies and others that deal with dangerous chemicals to prevent their diversion for use in IEDs, Napolitano said.
Last week, she met with officials in Afghanistan to discuss ways to build up customs capabilities and control precursor chemicals from crossing their border. DHS has quintupled the number of U.S. customs and border patrol agents in Afghanistan during the past year and the number of trainers will double in 2011, she said.
In 2010 there was an increase in IED attacks on U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan as al-Qaeda forces begin to employ tactics similar to those used by insurgents in Iraq.
Napolitano said the United States would continue efforts to build the capacity of customs agencies to secure cargo and protect critical hubs. And, she said, the government will strengthen plans for resuming trade in the event of an attack or disaster.
'We need to know ahead of time how to recover quickly from such a disruption, and how we can step up security without putting unnecessary burdens on the supply chain. To do this, DHS will seek to link our trade resumption planning across all modes of transportation, working together with the WCO, the International Maritime Organization, and the International Civil Aviation Organization.' ' Eric Kulisch