Gate miscommunication creates Miami security incident
Miscommunication between a 20-year-old Iraq-born truck driver and gate security officers at the Port of Miami Sunday created a security incident that initially appeared so serious that it launched a full-blown response from local and federal port security authorities.
The port was never closed, Miami-Dade police spokeswoman Nancy Goldberg at a Sunday afternoon press conference broadcast live nationally on the 24-hour news channels, but out of 'an abundance of caution' officials implemented a full security response that included U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the FBI, the Miami office of the U.S. Attorney, Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Coast Guard, and state and local law enforcement authorities.
The incident started around 8 a.m. Sunday when a driver bringing in an export container pulled up to the first set of cargo gates. He did not have a port ID card and was directed to the station where one-day passes are issued, Goldberg said. When drivers do not have port IDs, trucks are subjected to a mandatory inspection, and during that inspection authorities saw two other men were in the back of the truck cab.
Goldberg said the driver was coming from Dearborn, Mich. One of the passengers had no identification whatsoever, leading to the launching of a full security response.
Dearborn has the largest concentration of Iraqis in the U.S. and has been the site of many pro-U.S., anti-Saddam Hussein demonstrations over the years. Ethnic Iraqis were shown dancing in the streets there after Saddam's recent execution.
Goldberg said the driver, an Iraqi national with permanent residence status, spoke 'some English,' but there was miscommunication between the driver and gate security.
The trucker did have a cargo manifest and a subsequent inspection revealed the manifest and the contents of the container matched. It was also determined that the passengers included another Iraqi national that was a relative of the driver, as well as a Lebanese national that was a friend of the Iraqi men. Both passengers were also determined to be legal aliens with permanent residence status, Goldberg said.
That was not immediately established however, and the truck and container were subjected to full security inspections.
CBP spokesman Jose Ramirez said CBP officials scanned the container with portable inspection equipment at the port, first with gamma ray equipment that can determine the shape and density of a container's contents, and the with radio isotope equipment that can detect radioactive materials. Neither test revealed anything out of the ordinary.
In addition, Ramirez said, the container was brought to an on-port examination station, where 22 pallets were taken out of the container for a full physical inspection.
Ramirez said the contents of the container included spools of wire used in auto manufacturing and were considered to be auto parts.
The men were not identified, nor was the company the driver was working for, and no charges were filed, Goldberg said.
The container that was examined belonged to Seaboard Marine, which has extensive services from Miami to destinations in the Caribbean and Latin America.