American ports — including Boston and New York City — remain porous points of entry to terrorists who can too easily slip weapons of mass destruction into the country hidden in shipping containers.
Even President Obama said recently he’s more concerned with “a nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan” than Putin’s push into Crimea.
He’s right to worry.
“The most likely way that a weapon of mass destruction will find its way into the United States is not on the tip of a missile, but in the belly of a ship,” said Northeastern University professor Stephen Flynn, an expert on port security and terrorism.
It’s time to heed the warning and push partisan politics aside. The solution is ready to roll out.
U.S. Sen. Edward J. Markey co-authored legislation in 2007 requiring that all cargo containers abroad be scanned for nuclear weapons or other deadly materials before entering the U.S. Although Markey’s bill passed Congress, its implementation was delayed in 2012 and is currently awaiting action this June by Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.
I don’t agree with Markey on everything, but on this issue he’s right. Why wait?
“As long as the mandate to scan all the maritime cargo transported to our shores is unmet, the grave risk from Boston to Boise that a nuclear weapon may be smuggled into our ports remains,” Markey told the Herald.
It’s not a Democrat or Republican issue — it’s life or death.
Right now the U.S. Coast Guard and customs agents “can thoroughly inspect only about 5 percent of the 9 million shipping containers that arrive at U.S. ports every year,” according to the Council on Foreign Relations.
Although some officials cry foul about the projected multibillion-dollar expense and logistical difficulties in scanning cargo at 700 international ports prior to U.S. arrival, Flynn says the cost of doing nothing could prove “catastrophic in human and economic terms.”
That said, not everyone agrees that funding total scanning is the right approach.
According to Jim Rice, deputy director of the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics, folks in the industry are concerned that “a 20-fold increase in scanning will add enormous delays and costs, and those concerns have not been genuinely addressed yet.”
Still, nothing is more important than human safety. Our leaders in Washington and Homeland Security must act now and adopt total scanning before it’s too late.
Adriana Cohen is co-host of “Trending Now” on Boston Herald Radio.