U.S. Borders Vulnerable To Nuclear Attack

The federal government’s efforts to prevent terrorists from smuggling a nuclear weapon into the United States are so poorly managed and reliant on ineffective equipment that the nation remains extremely vulnerable to a catastrophic attack, scientists and a government auditor warned a House committee on Tuesday.

Nationally, less than a quarter of the radiation detection devices needed to check all goods crossing the borders have been installed, federal officials said. In New York, for example, none of the cargo that moves through the largest ship terminal or goods leaving the port by rail or barge are inspected for radiation, Bethann Rooney, manager of security for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, testified.

Customs officials also at times allow trucks to pass through the monitors too quickly, said Gene Aloise, an official from the Government Accountability Office. And because the devices sound so many false alarms, Mr. Aloise said, their sensitivity has been turned down, making them less effective still.

Members of Congress have also recently questioned a proposal by the Bush administration to spend $227 million in the coming year to create a Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, skeptical that it will do more than add a new layer of bureaucracy.

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