President's Terror Alert Is Necessary Wake-Up Call

Narco News Reported on Cargo-Package Security Threat Last Spring

The discovery Thursday evening of two packages rigged with explosives and destined via cargo jets for Jewish places of worship in Chicago prompted President Barack Obama to tell the nation today that U.S. authorities were addressing a “credible terrorist threat” against the nation.

Already, some in political opposition to the President are raising the specter of the terror plot being a ploy, an “October surprise.”

But the current threat linked to airborne packages should come as no surprise to readers of Narco News, which last May published a report about a whistleblower lawsuit that advanced serious allegations of security shortcomings involving a major air-cargo carrier.

From that story, “Real threat to U.S. national security may be along northern border”:

A document detailing that potential threat to U.S. national security surfaced in a lawsuit in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Canada. That document, an internal Federal Express Canada Ltd. report dubbed the GTS Update, reveals that a significant percentage of shipments involving high-value merchandise and/or controlled goods exported using FedEx Canada as the carrier appear to be leaving Canada without the proper Customs paperwork.

… The  … lawsuit, filed by a former Federal Express Canada Ltd. customs department employee named Nazir Ghany, alleges that FedEx Canada has engaged in “unlawful activities” that violate the Canadian Customs Act.

… A letter penned by one of the company’s legal representatives and directed to Dharamjit Singh, Ghany’s solicitor, or lawyer, argues that Ghany’s pleadings lack “material facts,” are “time barred” and are otherwise not supported by Canadian law.

The deadly packages discovered Thursday night that prompted the President’s dire warning earlier today were shipped via cargo jets from Yemen and intercepted in the United Kingdom and Dubai, the White House confirmed.

In the aftermath of the discovery of the explosive packages destined for Chicago, suspicious packages also were discovered on UPS planes in Philadelphia and Newark, according to media reports.

Memphis-based Federal Express also reports that it has “embargoed” all shipments from Yemen after seizing a “suspicious package” overseas.

From a statement on the company’s Web site:

In cooperation with the FBI, local authorities have confiscated a suspicious package at the FedEx facility in Dubai. The shipment originated in Yemen and as an additional safety measure, FedEx has embargoed all shipments originating from Yemen. The Company is cooperating fully with the authorities on this matter; any additional information regarding this matter must come from the FBI.

However, based on Narco News investigation into the allegations raised in the Canadian whistleblower lawsuit, U.S. authorities might be wise to keep their eyes on more than Yemen.

Unfortunately, it seems our good neighbor to the north might also prove to be a convenient path for the delivery of unwanted cargo goods to the U.S.

Following is an extended excerpt from the prior Narco News story, for those who missed it or might need a memory refresher:

In the case of controlled goods exported from Canada and destined for the U.S., there is no requirement for a B13A [export declaration] filing under Canadian law. That’s because Canada and the U.S. have in place a memorandum of understanding that calls for each nation to exchange import data.

However, major criticisms have been raised about U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s reliance on self-regulation under programs such as “C-TPAT,” which allows qualifying private-sector companies to oversee their own shipment security. In exchange, these C-TPAT-approved companies are granted a reduction in cargo examinations as well as expedited processing when their shipments are selected for examination.

The rational for such programs is that it allows U.S. border enforcers to better allocate scarce resources toward monitoring the immense volume of goods moved by shippers who have not been prescreened through C-TPAT and similar self-regulation programs.

Over the first six months of fiscal 2009, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, goods shipped via C-TPAT and a sister program called Importer Self Assessment (ISA), accounted for about half of all U.S. import value for the period — some $454 billion worth of goods.

The Washington, D.C.-based Project on Government Oversight (POGO), in a letter sent to members of Congress late last year, pointed out some serious flaws in this self-regulation model.

From the POGO letter:

In our efforts to further this mission, we want to bring to your attention two troubling self-policing programs—the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) and Importer Self-Assessment (ISA) programs—administered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Inherent in this sort of self-regulation is a reduction of federal oversight of imported goods coming into the country. POGO believes that self-regulation programs, by their very nature, are unsound because they are not objective or reliable, and that they are ripe for abuse, placing U.S. citizens in jeopardy.

… Specifically, POGO has received insider information that importers non-compliant with trade laws and regulations have been approved and are applying for the C-TPAT and ISA programs.

… It must also be noted that a number of the known C-TPAT companies have committed serious trade violations in the past, yet have been granted membership into C-TPAT and ISA, without testing to verify their problems have been corrected.…. It is easy to conclude that all of these programs are, in part, the result of limited resources to monitor the hundreds of billions of dollars of goods that enter the U.S. each year. However, the risk inherent with that strategy becomes a financial, security, and safety issue.

Although CBP does not make public the list of companies participating in C-TPAT or ISA, POGO was able to identify a number of those firms via government and company Web sites. Among the companies in the program, according to POGO, are BP America, Tektronix, Target Corp. and FedEx.

… According to former U.S. Customs supervisory special agent [Mark] Conrad, the questions raised by the Ghany [Canadian whistleblower] case are not new.

“All of us in law enforcement that dealt with technology theft from the U.S. by the old USSR were aware that high-speed, efficient organizations such as FedEx ... were problems because of their need to move things through the system faster than the government could [track it],” Conrad says. “That is still the case today.

“It is it a huge gaping hole. ... The bad guys are always thinking of ways and means to beat us.”

Stay tuned....

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