- The Washington Times - Friday, August 24, 2001

The U.S. Customs Service has begun a three-week training session in Texas to help border officials from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan combat the smuggling of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons components.
"There are few missions more critical to U.S. Customs than helping our foreign counterparts combat the spread of weapons of mass destruction," said acting Customs Service Commissioner Charles Winwood.
"U.S. Customs counterproliferation training programs have helped foreign authorities make numerous weapons-related seizures in recent years," he said. "We are confident this training will yield similar results."
Spokesman Dean Boyd said that during the training sessions in Hildalgo, Texas, which will extend through Sept. 8, Customs Service and U.S. Border Patrol officials from Hidalgo and the Office of International Affairs in Washington will provide international border interdiction training to the foreign participants, both in classrooms and on the field.
The training, he said, will include instruction in counterterrorism techniques, the detection of hidden compartments in cargo and passenger vehicles, the use of high-tech detection technology, the selection of high-risk vehicles and passengers, and passenger interviewing and behavioral analysis techniques.
Mr. Boyd said customs inspectors will highlight the use of state-of-the-art detection technologies, including X-ray equipment, density measuring units, fiber-optic scopes and advanced computer technologies. He said they also will demonstrate "low-tech" technologies and equipment used to detect weapons-related contraband at international borders.
Border Patrol officials, he said, will provide training in tactical radio communications, officer safety, patrol techniques, sensor placement and false document identification.
Nearly 80 foreign officials are scheduled to participate in the training session, each of whom was selected from the ranks of supervisors and line officials who work in outposts in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan that border China, Russia, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and ports on the Caspian Sea.
Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, the threat of trafficking of weapons of mass destruction, their delivery systems and related components has been substantially increased. The Customs Service has been at the forefront of U.S. efforts to counter the threat.
Mr. Boyd noted that through all of its international nonproliferation programs, the Customs Service has provided training to more than 2,600 foreign customs and border officers. The agency also has delivered millions of dollars worth of interdiction and detection equipment to officers in these nations.
He said that since 1998, eight significant seizures by foreign customs or police agencies have been attributed to the Customs Service training program, including the following:
In May 1999, officials at the Ruse border crossing in Bulgaria discovered 10 grams of highly enriched uranium concealed in an air compressor. The compressor was hidden in the trunk of a car. The Bulgarian customs officer who found the uranium had received counterproliferation training from the Customs Service just prior to the seizure.
In March 2000, authorities at the Gisht Kuprik border crossing in Uzbekistan seized 10 radioactive lead containers concealed in scrap metal in a truck entering from Kazakhstan. The Iranian driver of the truck and his radioactive cargo were bound for Pakistan. Uzbekistan authorities found the radioactive material after their portable radiation "pagers" alerted them as the truck entered the customs post.
Mr. Boyd said that in the months following the completion of the Texas training sessions, the Customs Service and other U.S. agencies will conduct follow-up training for the foreign officers who participated in the exercise. The training, held in their home countries, would help develop country-specific techniques.


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