Tuesday, March 24, 2009

100% Rail Screening Southbound to Mexico

The DHS web site has a listing of new enhancements to the Mexican border operations to be undertaken by DHS “designed to crack down on Mexican drug cartels through enhanced border security”. One of the measures listed in the press release is “implementing 100 percent southbound rail screening using non-intrusive inspection equipment to detect anomalies in rail cars.”

Now the implied intention is to intercept the shipments of arms and drug money going back to Mexico to support the drug cartels. This is a measure designed to support the efforts of the Mexican Government to crack down on these cartels. As such, it should certainly be supported. But, there is no mention of inspections of north bound rail cars, especially TIH rail cars.

As of April 1st of this year, all TIH rail car shipments originating in the United States are physically checked for the presence of IEDs and signs of tampering. All transfers of TIH rail cars must be physically handed off to ensure that a strict chain of custody exists from the time those IED checks are made until the time the rail car is delivered.

A major hole in those requirements exists for TIH rail cars entering the United States. There are no requirements to show that the IED checks were made at shipper’s locations in Mexico or Canada. There are no requirements for IED checks to be made at the US border. In fact, these TIH rail car shipments from areas under the physical control of the drug cartels may not be checked for the presence of IEDs until they reach a rail secure area in one of the high-threat urban areas in the United States.

The 100% screening of rail cars heading south across the Mexican border may certainly be a reasonable attempt to cut down the smuggling of arms and drug money. But, it seems to me that the screening of TIH rail cars coming into the United States from areas controlled by the drug cartels might be a little more important to homeland security.

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