Protecting the Nation From a Distance

By Brion P. Gilbride, MSI, CSSM, CPO
Since the 9/11 attacks, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has focused considerable effort and resources on identifying and combating security threats prior to reaching U.S. shores. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) accomplishes this in three ways – screening cargo at its port of origin, screening people at their airport of departure, and biometrically screening people upon arrival in the U.S. These programs allow the United States to address potential threats at their source. These programs also save the U.S. government millions of dollars in inspectional costs as well as saving companies millions of dollars in costs associated with transportation, storage, and fines. Depending on the nature of the business, the entire security operation could be affected by these programs, and understanding how they work is the key to realizing some of the potential benefits inherent in them.
Cargo Screening
The Container Security Initiative (CSI) was established shortly after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States by the CBP’s predecessor. CSI is designed to allow U.S. officials to identify high-risk shipments prior to their departure from a foreign port of entry and partner with customs officials at those foreign ports to examine those shipments and pursue intelligence generated by such examinations. According to CBP, 86 percent of all containerized cargo headed to the U.S. is prescreened prior to arrival on U.S. shores. Currently, CSI officers are posted in over fifty-eight foreign ports and eventually will include Halifax, Canada; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Bremerhaven, Germany; Piraeus, Greece; Hong Kong, China; and Dubai, UAE.
There are various requirements and responsibilities established for countries that agree to participate in the CSI program. These requirements were recently converted into federal law via section 205 of the Security & Accountability for Every Port Act of 2006 (SAFE Port Act). Customs officials must be able to inspect cargo “originating, transiting, exiting, or being transshipped” through the country. Examination equipment such as X-ray machines and radiation detectors must be available for such inspections. The Customs organization in the host country must share shipping data and intelligence with CBP, establish programs to ensure integrity of its processes, and must also assess and address port security vulnerabilities. The relationships established between CSI staff and their host counterparts are vital to maintaining the security of both the host country and the United States.
In addition to the numerous security benefits conferred on the United States by such a program, host countries are presented with several advantages as part of their participation in the CSI program. The information and intelligence sharing advantages realized from the United States importing an astronomical volume of goods from around the world are one benefit. Furthermore, should there be a terrorist attack, CSI ports, by virtue of the port security assessments mandated for participation in the program, would continue moving shipments to the United States while a non-participating port likely would not. CSI examinations significantly decrease wait-time for freight upon arrival in the U.S. because it has already been reviewed by CBP officials. Section 205(j) of the SAFE Ports Act authorizes DHS to "treat cargo loaded in a foreign seaport designated under the Container Security Initiative as presenting a lesser risk.”
In a similar vein, CBP also established the Secure Freight Initiative (SFI).The initiative was established by section 231 of the SAFE Port Act of 2006. It is a joint initiative between DHS, the State Department, and the Department of Energy. Current SFI ports include Hong Kong,China; Southampton, United Kingdom; Busan, South Korea; Salalah, Oman;and Karachi, Pakistan.
SFI requires shippers to provide CBP with ten specific data elements relating to their shipments 24 hours in advance of the shipment being loaded for transport to the U.S. As with CSI, shipments bound for the U.S. will be scanned using nonintrusive and radiation-detecting equipment. The scanning requirements, in the case of SFI, are actually statutory in nature, as described in Section 231 of the SAFE Port Act of 2006. The radiation-detection equipment mentioned here is also part of the Megaports Initiative, run by the U.S. Department of Energy. Any problems or issues resulting from inspection with those devices will either be resolved locally by the host country through physical inspection or CBP will advise the shipper not to load the shipment.
Technology involved in the cargo scanning includes Radiation Portal Monitors, which measure the radiation emitted by a container against the natural background radiation. If the measurement suggests the presence of radioactive material, an alert is generated. If an alert is identified, a hand-held scanner called a Radiation Isotope Identification Device is used to try to identify the radioactive material. Large-scale X-ray or gamma ray scanning equipment is used to image whole containers at a time, decreasing the need for manual inspection of an entire container, which could take hours to offload and re-load. Advanced upgrades to these technologies are planned in the near future.
SFI is described by CBP officials not as a replacement for the Container Security Initiative, but an enhancement of it. SFI responsibilities are carried out by existing CSI teams. The focus of SFI, however, is the data transmission and timing. The 24-hour window mandated by SFI allows both the host country and CBP personnel more time to evaluate incoming shipping data and target potential threats, thus enabling those threats to be resolved at a distance rather than on U.S. shores. Consider the scenario of a dirty bomb detonated at a U.S. seaport. The ship doesn’t have to be tied to the dock – it doesn’t even have to be in the harbor. To detonate such a device at the entrance to a U.S. port would have a devastating effect on both the U.S. economy and a substantial portion of the U.S. population. These programs are designed to mitigate the likelihood of such a scenario.
The CSI and SFI programs impact private security professionals in a variety of ways. A security professional involved, for example, in port security operations will likely have to adjust operations based on situations initiated by the operations of the CSI or SFI programs. Containers denied boarding would need to be either stored or removed from the premises. Containers deemed a radiological risk could result in emergency plans being activated for the vessel, seaport, or surrounding areas. Information may need to be obtained, confirmed, verified, or reported by security personnel regarding shipments, the container holding the shipment, the vehicle that brought the container into the port, the individual operating the vehicle, the individual loading the shipment, or the vessel the shipment is being loaded onto.
The information sharing encouraged by these programs may require the security professional to form new relationships or reinvigorate old relationships with government officials involved in these programs. The value of these types of networking relationships cannot be understated: to effectively work with government officials in furthering the aims of these programs may lead to other opportunities for shared training, operations, even a position with the government. Illicit activity encountered in a CSI/SFI-denied shipment may attach criminal or civil liability in either the host country or the United States that a security professional may have to investigate or report on. Security staff, in addition, may be called up on to secure the container in question until it can be relocated, removed, or even seized by authorities.



The Magazine — Past Issues


Beyond Print

SM Online

See all the latest links and resources that supplement the current issue of Security Management magazine.