Borders Secure against nuclear and bio-hazards says Chertoff

Truck radiation monitorSecretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff,  responding to a report today in the WASHINGTON POST regarding border and port security, had this to say!

According to a report in today’s Washington Post, two recent Congressional reports claim that our Department lacks a comprehensive strategy to protect the American people from the threat of nuclear and radiological weapons and materials, and that our efforts to guard against biological threats are poorly coordinated and have “unclear benefit.”

While we welcome Congressional oversight and thoughtful, balanced recommendations and even criticism, these reports and comments widely miss the mark. They are based on outdated and incomplete information.

Far from lacking a strategic plan or clear goals, the Department, in cooperation with federal, state, local, and international partners, has developed and is implementing a comprehensive Global Nuclear Detection Architecture to prevent the entry of radiological and nuclear weapons or materials into the United States. This architecture is intelligence-driven, and built around a multi-layered strategy that starts overseas, continues at our borders, and is maintained within the U.S. interior.

It begins with securing the international supply chain and working with our partners overseas to prevent illicit nuclear or radiological material from being smuggled into the country. Through programs such as the Secure Freight Initiative, our officers are working with their foreign counterparts overseas to scan U.S.-bound containers for radiation as they move through international ports.

At home, we are scanning cargo at the ports of entry and closing gaps along the land, air, and sea borders. We now scan almost all incoming containerized cargo for radiation at our major seaports. We also scan 100 percent of truck cargo entering the United States from Mexico and more than 90 percent of the truck cargo entering the United States from Canada. Just a few years ago, we didn’t scan any of this cargo for radiation.

But our efforts do not end here. To counter the threat of terrorists attempting to smuggle material aboard small planes, last year we launched an initiative to begin scanning trans-oceanic general aviation aircraft arriving in the United States for radiological and nuclear material. We also recently completed a Small Vessel Security Strategy to address the risk of small boats smuggling dangerous material, and we have been testing radiological and nuclear detection equipment in various maritime locations on the West Coast. This is in addition to equipping every Coast Guard boarding team with radiation detection equipment.

To protect the interior of the country, our “Securing the Cities” initiative is integrating radiation detection capabilities within the New York City urban area, and we are testing fixed and mobile radiation detection systems for commercial trucks traveling on U.S. highways.

Finally, we working with the Department of Energy, industry partners, and others to enhance security for licensed, high-risk radioactive sources, and we are promoting the design and production of non-nuclear alternatives for industrial devices that currently use radioactive sources.

To be sure, these efforts are not complete. But they do reflect a balanced and strategic defense designed to identify and address remaining gaps and vulnerabilities in our detection capabilities and make wise investments of taxpayer resources to draw down the risk of WMD.

Beyond radiological and nuclear threats, we also have made strides to improve our detection of dangerous biological agents. Our BioWatch program is now deployed in more than 30 major cities nationwide to monitor the air for harmful biological agents, giving us a robust detection capability. BioWatch works hand-in-hand with our new National Biosurveillance Integration Center, which analyzes data to quickly determine potential health and security threats.

Under BioWatch – which did not exist before 2001 – the Department has provided guidance to all participating jurisdictions on preparedness, response, and environmental sampling so that they can build their own concept of operations and operational plans around BioWatch. We have specific cooperative agreements with each of the participating laboratories to use their space, but we pay for our staff, test equipment, and chemicals used to analyze the BioWatch samples. And we are now beginning to deploy our next generation of quicker, less expensive BioWatch detectors.

Perhaps those who say that BioWatch has “unclear benefit” need reminding that our nation already suffered an anthrax attack in 2001. Our ability to quickly detect and characterize these kinds of biological agents is critical to saving lives and minimizing the impact. I think most Americans would agree the benefits of such a system are indeed clear.

Michael Chertoff

Guess that counters the claims of the opponents of Mexican trucks about the inevitability of nuclear of bio hazrd weapons entering the country from the southern border.

And Chertoff speaks the truth. Every commercial and personal POE on the southern border has radiation detectors that all vehicles must pass through.

We’re also seeing these radiation detectors in place at scale houses around the country. Knoxville Tennessee and Georgia are two states that come to mind.

Find other excuses to bash the Mexican trucker, but not on my watch.

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