- The Washington Times - Friday, October 13, 2006

President Bush yesterday signed a law to protect U.S. ports from terrorists smuggling weapons into the United States hidden within the 11 million containers that enter the country each year.

“With the bill I sign today, we renew a clear commitment: We will work tirelessly to keep our nation safe and our ports open for business,” the president said in a signing ceremony at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

The Security and Accountability For Every Port Act of 2006 (SAFE) includes an amendment that bans Internet gamblers from using credit cards, checks and electronic funds, drawing protests from a group representing the gambling industry.

The SAFE act authorizes $3.4 billion over five years for safety measures, including the installation of radiation detectors at the 22 largest U.S. ports by the end of next year. More inspectors will be hired to increase the number of random searches of containers.

“The SAFE Port Act will make this nation more prepared, more prosperous and more secure,” Mr. Bush said. “We’re going to protect our ports. We’re going to defend this homeland. And we’re going to win the war on terror.

Congress approved the bill two weeks ago before lawmakers left to campaign for the Nov. 7 midterm elections in which national security, the war in Iraq and terrorism are major issues. Democrats favored the bill, but said it failed to address rail and mass transit, other areas considered highly vulnerable to terrorists.

Rep. Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts Democrat, called the new law a “sham port bill” and complained it did not go far enough by authorizing only a pilot program to study scanning of cargo containers headed for the United States from three ports.

“Even though the technology exists today to scan 100 percent of U.S.-bound cargo at all ports to make sure it doesn’t contain nuclear bombs, this bill doesn’t require that to occur,” Mr. Markey said.

But Mr. Bush said the bill codifies the Container Security Initiative, which deploys U.S. inspectors to dozens of foreign ports on five continents, where they can screen cargo bound for the United States. He said it also codifies the Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism, a joint public-private sector initiative in which private shippers agree to improve their own security measures in exchange for benefits, including expedited clearance through U.S. ports.

The bill was approved on a 409-2 vote in the House, and by a voice vote in the Senate.

The decision by the Republican majority to lump the Internet gambling ban onto the bipartisan ports bill had drawn scathing criticism from some Democrats.

“Today is a dark day for the great American game of poker,” said Michael Bolcerek, president of the Poker Players Alliance, a grass-roots advocacy organization of more than 110,000 poker enthusiasts.

“Twenty-three million Americans who play the game online will effectively be denied the ability to enjoy this popular form of entertainment, even in the privacy of their own homes,” he said.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide