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Inspecting All Cargo Ships Still Not Realistic

It sounds good. Really good. Screen every ship before it leaves its port of origin before it sets sail for the United States to deliver its cargo. But it is simply not realistic. Yet, both the Senate and the House are crafting legislation to require this.

First, there is a distinction between screening and inspection. Inspection is physical. Screening need not entail physical inspection of the cargo/vessel and can entail simply the scrubbing of manifests.

However, to require this of all shipments from all ports is an exercise in futility. Perhaps even those hammering out the bills in committee understand this, which would explain the reluctance to attach a date or deadline for compliance in the language.

Either this is the case, and the paper that will be pushed forth to the floors of the House and Senate is a waste of time performed for public consumption rather than effective security policy and practice, or those involved have no sense of reality beyond the sheltered corridors of the Capital Buildings they occupy.

It goes without saying that it would be a monumental task - if not virtually impossible - to man all foreign ports worldwide with 24/7 teams of American screeners and inspectors (read: Americans insert themselves), capable of professionally and effectively checking, one way or another, every vessel loading and/or containing cargo bound for US shores.

Look at a globe and think about that.

Defeating this approach requires nothing more than a cargo transfer at sea rather than at port. Sure, much more difficult to pull off, but far easier to defeat than it will be to attempt to create the impossible 'wall' envisioned to prevent such an attack.

If you don't want guns in your house, should you travel everywhere and check visitors from their points of origin, leaving the entire trip for them to potentially pick up a weapon post-inspection? Or, rather, is it wise (or just plain more efficient) to concentrate your efforts to improve inspections at your own curb in front of your own door?

Screening at points of origin is an excellent idea, and is in fact already in place. But to suggest that all vessels must be screened at all ports of origin is not only an inefficient use of resources and counterproductive, but it’s downright counterintuitive.

Is this the best our legislative minds can muster? Who is advising them?