DHS systems working to stop contraband

The Homeland Security Department is seeing success in stopping potential acts of terrorism, thanks in part to systems put in place to check cargo before it leaves foreign ports, officials said June 18.

Brian Goebel, senior adviser at the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, said the United States is succeeding in pushing its borders away from its shoreline and checking for potential terrorist contraband thousands of miles away.

And with increased surveillance of cargo containers at foreign ports, "we are in fact making seizures overseas," said Goebel, speaking at the Homeland Security Financing Briefing, sponsored by BearingPoint Inc. at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Although Goebel declined to provide details, he did say that machine guns and gas masks were seized by law enforcement. He did not say where, but he did say, "The program is succeeding."

The agency, which is part of DHS, has implemented procedures designed to toughen inspections of cargo containers at foreign ports. The new policy requires 24 hours advance notice of cargo manifests before a shipment leaves a U.S. port.

Another program makes it easier for shipping companies to get their goods into the United States more quickly if they guarantee the security of their cargo. More than 3,000 U.S. companies participate in the project, and officials plan to expand it to foreign carriers soon.

"You need to appreciate that [the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection] has a dual mission — homeland security and not choking off trade," said Andrew Maner, director of the agency's transition management office, who also spoke at the conference.

Last week, DHS announced that Homeland Security agents and Royal Thai Police arrested a suspect in Thailand involved in the potential sale of enriched or weapons-grade uranium that could be used in a weapon of mass destruction.

"We're just in the beginning stages of knowing how to protect the American people," said Rep. Jim Turner (D-Texas), who spoke at another homeland security conference June 18, sponsored by George Mason University.

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