APRIL 26, 2006
Virtually neglected by the Department of Homeland Security, the nation’s seaports – extremely vulnerable to terrorist attacks – are finally getting much-needed attention. It only took five years since the horrific terrorist attacks, but the U.S. Government is finally taking measures to protect the ports by checking the backgrounds of all port workers.
The long overdue background checks will include an estimated 400,000 employees who work in the most sensitive areas of nation’s ports. Their names will be matched against government terror watch lists and immigration databases.
Federal officials have stalled for years to finally implement the security measure. In fact, in 2002 Congress ordered the Transportation Security Administration to issue biometric identification cards to port workers yet it never happened. A 27-page report published by the Government Accountability Office said bureaucratic delays and poor planning were hampering the implementation of security cards, which was supposed to take place in August 2004.
This led many elected officials in port states to criticize the government’s negligence, with one senator accusing the Department of Homeland Security of treating port security like a neglected stepchild.
Still, not everyone is in favor of the heightened security measures. The San Francisco-based International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents 42,000 members in the western U.S., opposes the background checks saying that port security threats come from outside and not from the workers.
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