MAY 27, 2008
A Homeland Security program intended to protect the nation’s ports has instead created security gaps that could easily be exploited by terrorists to smuggle weapons of mass destruction in cargo containers.
The Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) was established after the 2001 terrorist attacks to deter potential terrorist strikes via cargo passing through the nation’s 326 airports, seaports and designated land borders. It actually allows reduced scrutiny for about 8,000 trusted importers, port authorities and air, sea and and carriers.
In return the trusted companies are required to submit a security plan that supposedly meets the high standards of the Homeland Security agency protecting the nation’s borders, U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The problem is that many companies are not following the strict security guidelines, creating serious gaps that could easily be exploited by violent extremists.
An alarming report published by congressional investigators at the Government Accountability Office lists the gaps that clearly put the nation at risk. Among them is that customs officials can’t provide guarantees that companies are in compliance with security measures.
Companies are certified as safe based on their self-reported security information and the government doesn’t bother checking if they are actually complying. In cases where security improvements must be made, customs officials practically never follow up to ensure the security practices are implemented.
This essentially means that the massive government agency—with about 180,000 employees—created to protect the country after the September 11 attacks is deferring crucial port security to private shipping companies.
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