Guess you can tell when a Republican isn’t telling the truth … his lips are moving. Now, it was just a little while ago that some of the neoconmen on forumosa were spending enormous energy trying to insist that because one (1) corporate press release had been found about one (1) port, then that meant that the Bushies had actually solved the whole darn port security problem.
Port security is an important issue. Figuring, among other things, that a nuclear or other very large conventional weapon can easily fit within the holds or containers of a freighter. For those who don’t recall what happened to Halifax, Nova Scotia (that’s up in Canada for the mouth-breathers), during World War I, an ammunition ship blew up and took out blocks around it. Several freighters, tankers, and other assorted vessels are stolen by sophisticated pirate groups each year, which adds to the reasons for concern.
But, as there are some unscrupulous folks who would like Americans to stop asking questions about the adequacy of port security, it’s interesting to see what an audit has turned up.
[quote]WASHINGTON, Feb. 18 - The Department of Homeland Security has allocated hundreds of millions of dollars to protect ports since Sept. 11 without sufficiently focusing on those that are most vulnerable, a policy that could compromise the nation’s ability to better defend against terrorist attacks, the department’s inspector general has concluded.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars has been invested in redundant lighting systems and unnecessary technical equipment, the audit found, but “the program has not yet achieved its intended results in the form of actual improvement in port security.”
The grant program was intended to limit awards to what were considered strategic ports, meaning terminals that handle a large volume of cargo or a high number of passengers, are next to military facilities, or handle hazardous cargo.
After examining four separate rounds of port grants, the inspector general found that the department appeared to be intentionally distributing the money as widely as possible across the country, instead of focusing it on the biggest ports or on other locations that intelligence reports suggested were most likely to be future targets.
Major ports like New York, Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland received large allocations. But smaller grants went to ports in places like St. Croix in the Virgin Islands, Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., Ludington, Mich., and six locations in Arkansas, none of which appeared to meet the grant eligibility requirements, the audit said. The department, as a result, “had no assurance that the program is protecting the nation’s most critical and vulnerable port infrastructure and assets,” the audit said.[/quote]
Ports in Arkansas? WTF!? When you see porkbarrelling like this, you know it’s GOP donors at the trough. How’s that Halliburton investigation going?
[quote]“Your administration awarded port security grants in the states of Oklahoma, Kentucky, New Hampshire and Tennessee,” Mr. Lautenberg wrote. “While there may be some form of maritime facilities in these locations, I question whether, of the nation’s 361 maritime ports, these locations are truly the front lines on the war on terror.”
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, in four rounds of port security grants, received $6.2 million, or 1 percent of the total grants given out through the primary port security financing source, according to federal documents.[/quote]
The quality at one of the biggest ports near the U.S. capital is evidenced by this news article:
[quote]The Maryland Port Administration hastily replaced its security company at the Port of Baltimore after the U.S. Coast Guard found that officers were sleeping on the job, abandoning their posts and violating federal security regulations, according to a memo sent to port administrator James J. White.
The memo requested an emergency contract to replace the security officers, who are the first line of defense against a terrorist attack. State officials hired a new company “by the fastest means possible” in October in an effort to secure the city’s port, which includes five marine terminals and Baltimore’s World Trade Center.
“On numerous occasions, the contractor’s employees have failed to properly cover posts, vacated posts without being relieved and have been found sleeping at posts,” stated the memo, dated Sept. 24. “Although the contractor has been made aware of these deficiencies, little, if any, corrective action has been taken.” [/quote]
I expect the usual suspects will start up their usual choruses, leaving the rest of us to wonder how much longer this “buck don’t stop anywhere” attitude is going to carry them.