- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Two members of the House Homeland Security Committee yesterday said lawmakers must realize U.S. ports are potential terrorist targets and introduced a bill to remedy that situation in the wake of the Dubai ports furor.

“Those who wish to do us ill are not done,” said Rep. Dan Lungren, California Republican. “We have to be agile enough to anticipate that and to block it. There is no doubt that our ports are vulnerable.”

Mr. Lungren pointed out a “silver lining” to the political skirmish over the DP World fight: a wake-up call that the government must toughen security at U.S. ports just as airport security was increased after the September 11 attacks.

“We spent so much time on aviation. Everybody seems to agree that we need to do something about seaports, and the Dubai thing was the exclamation point on that sentence,” he said.

Mr. Lungren yesterday joined Rep. Jane Harman to announce their Security and Accountability for Every Port Act seeks $800 million per year for five years to track cargo containers en route, screen port workers and develop a worst-case scenario plan for resuming operations in the case of a terrorist attack, among other things.

“The idea of a dirty bomb or a group of terrorists smuggled into one of our big ports … keeps me up at night,” said Mrs. Harman, a California Democrat whose district surrounds the port of Los Angeles. “It could happen.”

Mr. Lungren, chairman of the subcommittee for economic security, infrastructure protection and cybersecurity, said he was one of few lawmakers who supported the deal to allow Dubai-owned DP World to operate some terminals at U.S. ports. The deal was called off last week amid a political firestorm.

Mr. Lungren and Mrs. Harman said they had long been working on increasing port security before the Dubai deal was announced.

The measure directs Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to create a port security strategy with minimum standards for checking cargo containers and a plan for getting ports running again in the case of an attack. It also would establish a separate director of cargo security within the Homeland Security Department. It calls for coordination of security efforts and a cross-check of port employee names with the government’s terrorist watch lists.

Rep. Peter A. DeFazio, Oregon Democrat, said the government has no idea what is inside cargo containers arriving at U.S. ports.

“Most Americans would be shocked to learn that this long after 9/11, we still have an honor system for cargo and ships coming into the United States of America,” he said.

Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter T. King, New York Republican, supports the measure and thinks it will enjoy wide support as it makes its way through Congress, a staffer said yesterday.

The bill, which has 49 co-sponsors from both parties, will be heard in committee tomorrow. The bill is a companion to the GreenLane Maritime Cargo Security Act in the Senate. The two measures are similar, though the Senate version has $835 million per year over the next five years and does not include the terror check on port workers.

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