Sunday, February 26, 2006

Gaps in Security Stretch From Model Port in Dubai to U.S.


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Feb. 25 — To some American officials, the sprawling port along the Persian Gulf here, where steel shipping containers are stacked row after row as far as the eye can see, is a model for the post-9/11 world.

Fences enclose the port's perimeter, which is patrolled by guards. Gamma-ray scanners peek inside containers to make sure they carry the clothing, aluminum, timber and other goods listed on shipping records. Radiation detectors search for any hidden nuclear material.

But those antiterrorism measures still fall far short of what is needed to ensure security, American government auditors and maritime experts say.

The scanning devices, for example, can check only a small fraction of the millions of containers that flow through here every year. The radiation detectors most likely would not pick up a key radioactive ingredient in a nuclear bomb, even if it was just modestly shielded. And the system that selects containers for inspection relies upon often-incomplete data.

In short, even at this model port, the security regimen set up in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, largely at the request of the United States government, is far from enough to address the vulnerabilities that make ports still such an attractive terrorist target.

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