Global Security Newswire
Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues
DHS Shifts Nuclear-Screening Focus to 'High-Risk' Cargo
Homeland Security officials said they are moving to tighten overseas checks of U.S.-bound cargo containers deemed likely to be hiding nuclear contraband.
Federal authorities hope foreign seaports will eventually scan all cargo they consider at "high risk" of containing weapon-usable nuclear or radiological materials, according to Wednesday testimony by Kevin McAleenan, acting deputy commissioner for Customs and Border Protection.
About 15 percent still is not checked before reaching U.S. shores, McAleenan said at a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
"We're currently ... assessing how the threats have changed" in an effort to close the screening gap, he told committee lawmakers.
"Are [there] certain strategically important ports that we can add capability? Can we work with additional countries to encourage them to take some measures before [ships are loaded]?"
McAleenan discussed the focus on "high-risk" cargo about a month after Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told lawmakers his department would not meet a July deadline set by Congress for all U.S.-bound shipping containers to undergo screening at foreign ports for smuggled nuclear and radiological materials. Officials previously postponed the statutory screening deadline by two years.
The mandate is "highly improbable, hugely expensive [and] not the best use of taxpayer resources to meet this country's port security and homeland security needs," Johnson was quoted as saying in a May 5 letter to Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), the Senate Homeland Security panel's chairman.
Johnson wrote that his department would focus its efforts on increasing "the percentage of high-risk cargo scanned by prioritizing diplomatic engagement with host governments to increase their support of current [Container Security Initiative] operations."
The department would also "discuss potential expansion of the initiative to additional key ports to ensure that such deployments align with high-risk cargo," he wrote.
Correction: This article was modified to correct the first name of Senator Tom Carper.
Note to our Readers
GSN ceased publication on July 31, 2014. Its articles and daily issues will remain archived and available on NTI’s website.
Oct. 6, 2014
The UNSCR 1540 Resource Collection examines implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540, which requires all states to implement measures aimed at preventing non-state actors from acquiring NBC weapons, related materials, and their means of delivery. It details implementation efforts in all of the regions and countries of the world to-date.
July 31, 2014
Providing free and open access to centralized information on nuclear and other radioactive material that has been lost, stolen, or is otherwise out of regulatory control, the new Global Incidents and Trafficking Database and Report prepared by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) offers researchers and policymakers a unique resource to assess the nature and scope of nuclear security risks.
This article provides an overview of the United States’ historical and current policies relating to nuclear, chemical, biological and missile proliferation.