Customs and Border Protection faulted for lack of preparation

The inspector general for the U.S. Homeland Security Department last month faulted one DHS agency for not doing enough to prevent chemical and biological weapons from being smuggled into the country, the Global Security Newswire reported Nov. 3.

In a partially redacted document, the Inspector General's Office found that Customs and Border Protection officials had "not conducted a formal risk assessment to determine which pathways, including maritime cargo, pose the highest risk of biological and chemical weapons entering the nation."

The report recommends that a formal risk assessment be carried out to make certain that Customs and Border Protection was assigning its detection resources to those points of entry that offer the greatest threat to national security.

The department acknowledged that Customs and Border Protection "has taken steps to mitigate the threat of nuclear and radiological weapons in maritime cargo containers."

Agency officials have said new detectors that would aid inspectors in the detection and identification of biological and chemical weapons are under development.

The Inspector General's Office also recommended that Customs and Border Protection revisit and make current its protocols on the investigation of containers suspected of carrying chemical and biological weapons.

"Without updated policies to focus cargo inspections, biological and chemical threats may go undetected," according to the report.

Customs and Border Protection agreed with the findings.

The report came as a result of a measure in the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2004 that requires a yearly review of procedures for the inspection of port cargo, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee said Nov. 2 in a press release.

"Tireless assessment of inspection procedures at our ports, and the adaptation of those procedures to face 21st century threats head on, is critically important to strengthening America's national security," said Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.

"To ensure our ports are secure, it is crucial we determine which pathways into America pose the greatest risk of biological and chemical weapons release and use the most cutting-edge, proven technologies for interdiction," Rockefeller said, "A plan to deploy these improved detection resources in our ports will be essential moving forward."