The search for terrorists at seaports and air ports has failed to find
many, but the effort has caught a lot of other criminals. Increased airport
security has snagged all sorts of criminals, and criminal activity. Smugglers
in particular have been hard hit. Same thing has occurred at seaports.
ever since September 11, 2001, there has been much fear that terrorists would
use the 25 million freight containers moving round the world, to move bombs, or
the terrorists themselves. Over eight million containers pass through the
United States each year, and currently only a few percent of them get any kind
of inspection. But one of the more effective tools for checking containers is a
portable X-ray machine that scans entire containers at once.
containers this way has revealed that these large metal boxes are already being
used to smuggle all sorts of stuff (and people). Some of this smuggling was
already known, but the closer counter-terrorism experts look, the more non-terrorist
smuggling they discover.
is that the container using smugglers don't really care about what they are
paid to move through the global shipping container system. The attitude seems
to be, you pay me the money and I will move the goods. While no smuggler wants
to get involved with terrorists (which would bring down more police heat that
is safe for a smuggler), it was believed that it would be relatively easy for a
terrorist to pass himself off as just another criminal wanting to move goods
illegally into the United States. However, it appears that the smugglers have
been keeping their distance from terrorists. Part of that is because the new
inspections, especially those using the X-ray device, have got the smugglers
scrambling to find better ways to hide what they are trying to sneak in via
cargo container. For decades, the smugglers had a great time by simply
mislabeling containers. There were few physical inspections, and in most ports,
a large bribe could take care of any problems if your shipment was caught by
accident (a container had an accident and broke open) or was selected for some
kind of random physical inspection. But the X-ray machines have inspired port
authorities to try and put a real dent in the smuggling. This is partly
inspired by media interest in the new X-ray machines (which cost up to a
million dollars each) and the known capabilities of these beasts. So the bribes
aren't as effective as they used to be (too much risk of the media finding
out), and a lot more illegal shipments are getting caught.
terrorists in sight.