An FBI counterterrorism
official told senators Jan. 27 that America's seaports are targets that have
attracted interest from terrorists, The
Associated Press reported.
“The intelligence we have
certainly points to ports as a key vulnerability,'' said Gary M. Bald,
inspector-deputy assistant director of the FBI's counterterrorism division. “I
can't be more specific as to the threats of attacks. We have received
information that indicates there is an interest.''
In a related development, a truck making
its way to Israel’s Haifa port was stopped Jan. 28 when a suspicious bag was
found containing what appeared to be some sort of triggering device. An
anti-terror squad was called to the scene. The truck was on its way to the area
set aside for toxic material deliveries at the port.
Meanwhile, Bald and officials
from the Coast Guard and Customs Service said they've made progress in securing
the nation's 361 ports, which receive about 6 million cargo containers from
overseas each year.
Robert Jacksta, executive
director of border security and facilitation for the Customs Service, said 5.4
percent of cargo containers entering the nation's ports in the 2003 fiscal year
were inspected. He said that was nearly double the percentage from 2002.
Sens. Jon Kyl, R-AZ, and
Dianne Feinstein, D-CA, who convened the hearing of the Senate Judiciary
Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security, said more must be
“The ports are the soft
underbelly of our nation's security,” Feinstein said.
Meanwhile, the Coast Guard
still is assessing how many ships, ports, ferry terminals and fuel-chemical
tank farms failed to meet a Dec. 31 deadline for submitting security plans,
said the agency's director of port security, Rear Adm. Larry Hereth.