Scanning 100% of U.S.-Bound Containers Stopped in the Senate--For Now

As the Improving America's Security Act moves through the path to becoming law, such an amendment--defeated by a 58-38 vote--by Senators Charles Schumer (Dem.-NY) and Robert Menendez (Dem.-NJ) may be re-introduced. There has been strong industry opposition to the proposition.
For example, in a letter to Congress, Mary Jo Muoio, President of National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America, says, "The amendment pre-supposes that 100% scanning is a necessary requirement for securing our homeland. In our view, scanning is essential when risk dictates that it be conducted. This is true of every activity undertaken by DHS. In planning for the unforeseen and unexpected, where the possibilities are limitless, we must deploy finite resources aimed where the greatest risk occurs. Advocates of 100% scanning are deceived by the notion that theirs is a path to fully assured security. Moreover, they presume that the resources and technology will be there, at some arbitrary time in the future."
As if to rebut the technology argument, a report, Barriers to the Success of 100% Maritime Cargo Container Scanning, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Engineering Systems Division, issued in January 2007, says the study, "evaluated the capabilities of currently available scanning technologies. We found that a basic scan of all cargo bound for U.S. seaports could be accomplished using imaging technology and passive radiation detection."
As far as screening freight on passenger flights--belly cargo--earlier this month, Giovanni Bisignani, director general of the International Air Transport Association, thought that the focus should be on embedding security in the entire supply chain rather than just focusing on screening at the end. He noted that to screen cargo on passenger flights would cost $3.6 billion over 10 years. "The solution is a risk-based approach that involves the entire supply chain and cost efficient technologies such as advanced canine techniques," he says. "Then we can target screening to achieve the best results."

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