No I don't feel any safer

Do you? Let's be honest: do you really think the Administration (the same Administration that did such a shitty job before and after Hurricane Katrina) is really going to suddenly learn how to effectively staff and competently run a bureaucracy? Even one with such an important task? No, me either.

I would not be surprised if questions regarding pro-life and anti-homosexuality beliefs were more prominent on the job application than actual experience in the field. Being a Bush donor no doubt helped as well.

Das Boot

Steve Coll: A Reporter at Large: The Unthinkable: Reporting & Essays: The New Yorker

October, 2005, a radiation sensor at the Port of Colombo, in Sri Lanka, signalled that the contents of an outbound shipping container included radioactive material. The port’s surveillance system, installed with funds from the National Nuclear Security Administration, an agency within the Department of Energy, wasn’t yet in place, so the container was loaded and sent to sea before it could be identified. After American and Sri Lankan inspectors hurriedly checked camera images at the port, they concluded that the suspect crate might be on any one of five ships—two of which were steaming toward New York.

Sri Lanka is a locus of guerrilla war and arms smuggling. It is not far from Pakistan, which possesses nuclear arms, is a haven for Al Qaeda, and has a poor record of nuclear security. The radiation-emitting container presented at least the theoretical danger of a “pariah ship,” Vayl Oxford, the director of the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, said. It seemed plausible, if unlikely, that Al Qaeda or rogue Pakistani generals might load a bomb onto a cargo vessel.
It was also the first major defensive maneuver triggered by a shield that the United States is attempting to build as a defense against a clandestine nuclear attack. The idea, in essence, is to envelop the country in rings of radiation detectors and connect these sensors to military and police command centers, which would then respond to unexplained movements of nuclear material. The project, comparable in ambition to ballistic-missile defense, is the first of its kind in the atomic age. The plan has already attracted criticism from some scientists and defense strategists, primarily because, as with missile defense, the project promises to be expensive and would require leaps of ingenuity to overcome technical problems presented by the laws of physics.

Still, with little public discussion this “layered defense,” as it is described by its proponents, is being deployed. The federal government has distributed more than fifteen hundred radiation detectors to overseas ports and border crossings, as well as to America’s northern and southern borders, domestic seaports, Coast Guard ships, airports, railways, mail facilities, and even some highway truck stops. More detectors are being distributed each month. NEST and the Federal Bureau of Investigation maintain a permanent team to respond to events in Washington and along the Northeast Corridor; a second team trained to dismantle nuclear weapons is based in Albuquerque, and eight other teams able to diagnose radioactive materials operate on continuous alert elsewhere in the country.

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, NEST teams have been deployed about twice a year because of specific threats reported by intelligence agencies, including at least two instances, apart from the Sri Lankan episode, where they boarded a ship approaching the United States. NEST units also discreetly screen vehicles, buildings, and people at designated events such as political conventions and the recent N.B.A. All-Star Game, in Las Vegas. In the United States alone, the sensors generate more than a thousand radiation alarms on an average day, all of which must be investigated.

Read the whole thing here (for a while, at least), and shudder or cower in fear. Whatever feels best to you. Personally, I'm hiding under my desk. Thank Cthulhu for WiFi.

To be fair, I don't know if any government organization can protect us from catastrophic nuclear terrorism, but the Bush-ites are a far worse choice, based solely on their track-record, than nearly any other possibility.

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This page contains a single entry by Seth A. published on March 19, 2007 9:29 PM.

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