WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In response to President Bush’s signing of the Safe Port Act, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), a senior member of the House Homeland Security Committee, released the following statement:

“If we fail to scan 100 percent of cargo overseas, before it is loaded aboard container ships headed for our shores, we're not just 'missing the boat'; we could be missing the bomb, with devastating consequences for our country,” Rep. Markey said.

The 9-11 Commission determined that ports and maritime cargo were at least as vulnerable to terrorist attack as our aviation system.  During a speech last month, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said that preventing the introduction and use of weapons of mass destruction has to be the “number one thing we attend to in the years to come.”  And Harvard University arms control expert Graham Allison has said that it is “more likely than not” there will be a terrorist attack using a nuclear bomb in our country.  He has described the detonation of a nuclear explosive device in a cargo container in one of our ports as a nightmare scenario for our nation.

However, after months of crafting bipartisan port security legislation that was supposed to close loopholes that put Americans at risk, Republicans shut Democrats out of the process and this bill is missing MAJOR security upgrades that are urgently needed.

“The Safe Port Act is more like a Sham Port Act.  It contains a pilot program to study 100% scanning of cargo containers headed for the U.S. from 3 ports – but even though the technology exists today to scan 100% of U.S.-bound cargo at ALL ports to make sure it doesn’t contain nuclear bombs, this bill doesn’t require that to occur,” Markey continued.

It is not hard to imagine how Al Qaeda could exploit our porous port security safeguards:

o        An Al Qaeda operative gets enough highly enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon from the Former Soviet Union, where thousands of nuclear weapons’ worth of HEU is stored - often with inadequate or no security safeguards.
o       He builds a crude nuclear device after reading instructions he finds on the Internet.
o       He ships it to the U.S. in a cargo container from overseas, and because we scan less than 5 percent of all the U.S.-bound containers before they reach our shores, it is extremely unlikely that the nuclear device inside the container will ever be detected.
o       When the signal is given, the Al Qaeda operative detonates the bomb in one of our ports or cities, killing hundreds of thousands of people and causing devastating economic and environmental damage.

“Right now, the Bush Administration relies on paperwork checks of manifests that are supposed to describe the contents of cargo containers to determine which containers to scan for nuclear materials or other dangerous items.  This type of “screening” is like checking the I.D.’s of airline passengers as they wait in line at the security checkpoint and then waving them right through to their flights without making them walk through the metal detector! It’s like putting a Beware of Dog sign out on your lawn but not bothering to go out and get a dog.” Markey concluded.

For more information on Rep. Markey’s work please visit: http://markey.house.gov

October 13, 2006

CONTACT: Israel Klein