Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Hm. Think This Story Might Be Why Card's Resignation Was Announced This Morning?

Radioactive Matter Gets Into U.S. in Test

Associated Press Writer

March 28, 2006, 6:30 AM EST

WASHINGTON -- Installing radiation detectors at U.S. entry points is taking too long and costing too much, says a congressional watchdog agency whose undercover investigators breached security by slipping nuclear material into the United States.

In a test last year, the small amounts of cesium-137, which is used in industrial gauges, triggered radiation alarms in Texas and Washington state. The material was enough to make two small "dirty bombs," officials said, yet U.S. customs agents permitted the investigators to enter the United States because they were tricked with counterfeit documents.

The Bush administration says that within 45 days it will give U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents the tools they need to verify such documents in the future.
Let's assume that test happened on December 31, 2005. That was 87 days ago, plus a further 45 days. So this administration has known about this for almost a hundred days AND is willing to wait another month and a half before it does anything about it? August 6 PDB, anyone?

But wait! There's more!
Senators were to grill administration officials on security problems identified during the Government Accounting Office's undercover operation during a Senate Homeland Security subcommittee hearing Tuesday.

In a series of reports, the GAO, which is the investigative arm of Congress, found that the Homeland Security Department's goal of installing 3,034 radiation detectors by September 2009 across the United States -- at border crossings, seaports, airports and mail facilities -- was "unlikely."

Investigators also said the government probably will spend $342 million more than it expects to complete the job, given its current costs and pace. Between October 2000 and October 2005, they said, the government spent about $286 million installing radiation monitors inside the United States.
The gang that couldn't shoot straight is also the gang that can't spend straight, apparently. Oh. Wait. Let's see what really happened in the tests, shall we?
To test security at U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada, GAO investigators last year represented themselves as employees of a fake company and obtained cesium-137.

They attempted to cross into the United States with the substance -- enough to possibly create two crude radiological bombs that could spread radiation if spread by the blast of a conventional explosive.

When stopped, the investigators presented counterfeit shipping papers and NRC documents that allegedly permitted them to receive, acquire, possess and transfer radioactive substances.

Investigators found that customs agents weren't able to check whether a person caught with radioactive materials was permitted to possess the materials under a government-issued license.

"Unless nuclear smugglers in possession of faked license documents raised suspicions in some other way, CBP officers could follow agency guidelines yet unwittingly allow them to enter the country with their illegal nuclear cargo," a report said. It described this problem as "a significant gap" in the nation's safety procedures.

Vayl Oxford, who heads the Homeland Security Department's Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, said the substance could have been used in a radiological weapon with limited effects.
God bless the GAO, the last bastion of Clintonian restraint (the Comptroller General is a fifteen year appointee, so no worries about Bush firing him!).

Think about it: no way to check whether someone with enough radioactive material for two dirty bombs, that could potentially kill thousands if not tens of thousands of people not from detonation, but from panic, and all the DHS can say is "Well, it wouldn't kill that many people..."

Thumbsucking is an art raised to the highest level in the Bush administration. I can almost picture Vayl Oxford sitting on the floor, rocking back and forth, saying "Kmart sucks."


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