Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J, is taking another bite at the apple with a new amendment designed to create a system for conducting image scans on all cargo containers at foreign ports to detect terrorist smuggling of mass destruction weapons.
Last week the Senate voted down an amendment from Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., that would have required the Department of Homeland Security to deploy automated inspection systems and scan 100 percent of inbound cargo overseas within five years. The new proposal differs in that it doesn't set any deadline, but requires the department to establish a plan to achieve 100 percent scanning. It mirrors an amendment that was blocked from being attached to last year's SAFE Port Act.
In a letter to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America urged defeat of the scan-all proposal because of the enormous cost of trying to inspect the vast majority of legitimate cargo. The trade association said the current approach of focusing resources on shipments for suspicious sources is more effective.
"Advocates of 100 percent scanning are deceived by the notion that theirs is a path to fully assured security. Moreover, they presume that the resources and technology will be there, at some arbitrary time in the future," the trade association said. "NCBFAA believes that the Menendez amendment … is a backdoor mandate for what Sen. Chuck Schumer's amendment attempted to accomplish last week."
Industry groups have been vigorously lobbying Congress for weeks to oppose attempts to require non-intrusive inspections of ocean containers, saying the technology and processes are not developed yet that can handle more than 11 million containers per year.