March 7, 2006

HEY, MAYBE THE DUBAI PEOPLE WOULD DO BETTER — it’s looking as if it would be hard to be worse:

House Republicans vowed to defy President Bush’s effort to have a Dubai company take over six major U.S. ports. But ABC News has learned about a port threat from within — a major security breach at the ports of New York and New Jersey.

The two ports handle millions of tons of cargo a year, with scores of cruise ships passing through annually. Truckers who transport much of the cargo are issued ID cards, which give them access to the ports’ most sensitive areas.

ABC News has learned that the cards, given to thousands of truckers by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, were issued with virtually no background checks. The Department of Homeland Security recently investigated the New York and New Jersey ports, and found stunning gaps in security.

The new DHS report, obtained by ABC News, shows that of the 9,000 truckers checked, nearly half had evidence of criminal records. More than 500 held bogus driver’s licenses, leaving officials unsure of their real identities.

You know, I’ve become convinced that the Dubai ports deal isn’t a bad thing, but I absolutely can’t defend the Administration on this, assuming these reports are true. And sadly, they’re not at all unbelievable. I’ve been noting for years that homeland security is a bureaucratic nightmare, and, well, it is.

UPDATE: Reader Eric Hall notes that the underlying problem is with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which is not a federal agency, and that the federal DHS found the problem. That’s a fair point, but it’s also true that the federal Homeland Security apparatus was sold as an answer to stuff like this. It’s nice that they’ve found the problem, but it’s been nearly four years since the DHS was created, and this sort of thing doesn’t seem to be any more secure. Check out this Wall Street Journal story (free link) for more on port security problems in general.

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