In late August ABC news successfully shipped a 15 pound cylinder of depleted uranium from Jakarta, Indonesia to the United States through the Port of Los Angeles. The shipment has raised serious questions about the ability of customs officials to secure U.S. borders against weapons of mass destruction.
Below are questions and answers on U.S. border security related to this shipment.
How many containers enter the United States each year?
A: In 2002, more than 7 million ocean cargo containers arrived in U.S. seaports.
How many enter the Los Angeles/Long Beach port annually?
A: In 2002 Los Angeles Port received approximately 1,774,000 containers. This is the biggest number of containers for any U.S. port and accounted for 24.7% of all imported cargo.
What programs does the Department of Homeland Security have in place to secure U.S. borders against weapons of mass destruction?
A: The Container Security Initiative (CSI) is intended to “push out” America’s borders by placing inspectors in major overseas ports to inspect high-risk cargo before it leaves for the United States.
The Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) is a cooperative venture between the U.S. government and commercial importers, carriers, brokers, warehouse operators and manufacturers that ship goods to the United States. Companies participate in C-TPAT by agreeing to developing and implementing a program to enhance security of their part of the supply chain against terrorists in accordance with C-TPAT guidelines.
Operation Safe Commerce is a public-private initiative by the Transportation Security Administration to evaluate and improve the security of the global supply chain. Through the evaluation and analysis of the security of inbound supply chains to the ports of Seattle/Tacoma, Los Angeles/Long Beach and New York/New Jersey, ports will propose improvements to security throughout the supply chain.
Is the shipper of ABC News’ depleted uranium, Maersk Logistics a participant in C-TPAT?
A: Yes. On January 9, 2003, Søren K. Brandt, Global Managing Director and CEO of Maersk Logistics commented on his firm’s acceptance into C-TPAT: “Enrolling into the Program is a natural step for Maersk Logistics, as we consider security to be of utmost importance to the success of logistics operations in today’s world. We believe supply chain management companies have an important role to play and we are happy to lead the way and assume our responsibility. We look forward to working with the US Customs as well as other national and international authorities to ensure the highest possible security standard for our clients in all our operations.”
Is the shipper of ABC News’ depleted uranium, Maersk Logistics, a participant in Operation Safe Commerce?
A: Yes. On July 8, 2003, Maersk Logistics was selected as a logistics provider to participate in the Operation Safe Commerce project with the Port of Seattle, Tacoma. According to Mr. Mark Tierney, General Manager of the Maersk Logistics Safety, Security and Compliance department: “Our goal in participating in the Operation Safe Commerce project is to match the commercial trend of developing supply chain management solutions that combine increasing client visibility with the transportation security posture of knowing what is in the container destined for the United States.”
Is the port of Jakarta, Indonesia a Container Security Initiative participant?
A: Jakarta, Indonesia does not participate in CSI.
What radiation detection equipment do U.S. customs personnel have to detect radiation?
A: According to Robert C. Bonner, Commissioner of the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection at the Department of Homeland Security, his bureau has deployed over 8,000 personal radiation detectors, 300 isotope identifiers and 60 radiation portal monitors to U.S. borders.
How effective are radiation pagers?
A: As of September 2003 every customs inspector at U.S. borders has a personal radiation detection pager. However, according to testimony from the General Accounting Office, the pagers have limitations. “DOE officials told [GAO] that they do not view pagers as search instruments, but rather as personal safety devices to protect against radiation exposure, and that the pagers have a limited range and are not designated to detect weapons-usable nuclear material.”
What is depleted uranium?
A: Depleted uranium is a by-product of the industrial processing of weapons-grade uranium.
How does depleted uranium differ from weapons grade uranium?
A: Weapons grade uranium is suitable for nuclear weapons, deplete uranium is not due to its low concentration of the isotope U0-235. Weapons grade uranium has a high concentration of the Uranium isotope U-235. Depleted uranium has a very low concentration of U-235, less than 0.711 percent of its weight.
The Terrorism Prevention Project’s mission is to provide clear analysis to the public, media, and Congress on the rapidly expanding government efforts to prevent future terrorist attacks against the U.S. We hope that this information will create a broader understanding of the federal programs and their performance goals aimed to prevent terrorism, and will thus enable Congress to evaluate in an effective way the programs that will cost the taxpayer tens of billions of dollars in fiscal year 2003 and beyond.