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May 27, 2008

Comments

Jim

The emphasis on the nuclear materials isn't unfounded, but is surely an incomplete scenario.

They know we've got pretty damn good sensors, not only in our major ports, but aboard the USCG and Customs aircraft which overfly the maritime approaches.

What we do NOT have, is the ability to sense or detect a massive chemical or biological dispersal device, triggered from within a refrigerated container.

And you thought nukes were scary?


Jim
Sloop New Dawn
Galveston, TX

Nels Tomlinson

I'm sure we will have the will to protect the second port city to be targeted by a container-born nuke.

We ``can't'' protect the ports right now because it would cause huge backlogs in our shipping which would screw up our just-in-time supply lines and raise costs. All that is true, even though right now, we could take sensible though expensive precautions which would give a reasonable cost to benefit ratio, and we have some slack in our system to pay those costs.

Protecting that second port will be more expensive, and less feasible, than protecting the first port would have been. By the time we're willing to pay the price to protect our ports, we will be getting awfully short on the means to protect them.

Imagine what it will be like after the first port is blown up, with all the ports shut down for days, and then reopened, long after serious shortages have developed in everything. There will be mostly ineffective, feel-good security theater to cover the asses of the authorities. We will be one port short, shipping will be disrupted and slowed at every remaining port, and we will have a large area affected by fallout from a ground burst which will probably be very dirty. The security theater will almost surely be more disruptive, and less effective, than what might have been set up to protect that first targeted port, back when we had the luxury of time to plan, implement and adapt. We will have a huge disaster to recover from, and a huge disruption of business as usual, and it is indeed a question of when, not if, it will happen. We will be facing far higher costs to close the door after the fox is in the henhouse, and we will have far less ability to pay those costs.

A container of chemical explosive and high-level waste could contaminate a few square miles of port city. A container-born nuke could contaminate an area stretching hundreds of miles downwind. A dirty bomb would be a very expensive disruption, a ground burst nuke, even a relatively clean one, would be a disaster.

Gerry N.

Yoy're all thinking military. One or two small dirty bombs stuck in say, the trunk of a car, or a shipment of tires. 20 or 20 lbs of C-4 or the like surrounded by nuclear waste. Set off by gps set to a coordinate. It wouldn't need to kill a soul. Just the dirty nuke cloud spreading on the wind will do the job. How many ships, how many containers coming here from Islamic ports? Any one or any dozen for that matter could be involved. Not only that, it wouldn't cost very much.

Like Will said, "nor if, when" Then I hope we take the gloves off. Start with the NY Times ownership, editorial staff, Dhimmi Khadr, and a few feet of rope. I'm sure we could work the DNC and most of the RNC in there too.

Aaron Neal

Don't forget the scenario of a weapon carried via weather balloon, launched into the jetstream from halfway around the world, and programmed to trigger within a range of GPS coordinates.

I spent most of the '90s surprised that we hadn't been hit by a major terrorist attack. USS Cole was "well, there it is"; 9/11 was "oh shit, it really happened".

I'm back to "surprised" that we haven't had another since then; it's gonna happen. The question isn't "if", it's "when, where, and how?"

Will

You're not thinking clearly about the details of moving a weapon a long distance. In a shipping container, sitting on a ship with a thousand other containers, that no one goes near while it gets transported halfway around the world. It never leaves the ship! None of the face to face dealings necessary to move a box/container by truck, with all the things that can go wrong during its journey. No, anyone stupid enough to move it by truck/road is probably stupid enough to get caught, which is what the .gov is hoping for. By ship is the only method we can't stop, currently. Aircraft would be second, I think.

Morenuancedthanyou

For bringing bombs into the interior of the US, it would be easier to smuggle them into Mexico or Canada and bring them across the borders.
Inland *areas* are not as important as ports, for sure, but dams are tremendously valuable inland targets.

Will

Actually, this brings to mind a scenario I was pondering. To ruin this country, what you do is plant a weapon on enough ships to cover all the seaports, plus inland cities with ship access. Cities along the Mississippi and other rivers, plus the great lakes area. The only country that could have ships in all those cities at once without raising eyebrows would be chinese, I think. Wouldn't have to be them behind it, either. Sort of a Jericho from outside, instead of internal Tangos.

Will

That's the thing that is being ignored. They only have to get it through security if they want to hit an interior city. Port cities are way more important than any interior area, generally speaking.
I think what will have to happen is inspection will have to be done at the sending port. Ship and cargo inspected and sealed, with an onboard guard that will travel on the ship to its destination. I would expect that single destination/country shipping would become the norm. Might even bring back our own merchant fleet. Any weapon found will bring massive response toward all parties involved, including the shipper country for being lax. This will be paid by taxes on the items shipped. This may help turn around the flight of production to other countries, since shipping will become very expensive.
Unfortunately, this step will only happen after we lose a port city. I expect that the rest of the world will be made VERY unhappy with the results of our losing a port. I expect that any politicians that make noises about appeasement will be terminated with extreme prejudice. Actually, I suspect that there would be a "house cleaning" in that regard, anyway.

Brick Oven Bill

I met Susan Collins (from the article) once. She stepped in line right behind me at Panera’s Bread. I politely tried to strike up a conversation with her, but she was very distant and aloof. Later I overheard her talking to some ditz with a young kid about education.

Susan Collins is a checker-player. From the article:

"I will continue to work with DHS and the private sector to ensure the effectiveness of the crucial port security program," she said.

She doesn’t realize that you don’t need to get the container through port security. Try to avoid living immediately downwind of ports. Steam sucks.

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