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Thursday, August 11, 2005

Surveillance at the Border

From BusinessWeek:

Thanks to new technology and secure-cargo programs, U.S. Customs & Border Protection officials at Nuevo Laredo and other heavily trafficked crossings have a more complete picture than ever of who and what is coming through. Since 2002, all exporters from Mexico have been required to deliver cargo manifests electronically to U.S. customs officials, along with details on the driver and the trucking company, at least an hour before a shipment is due to cross the border. To ward off bioterror threats, shipments of agricultural products now require 24 hours' notice so that they can be flagged for inspection if warranted. Every railcar that enters and leaves the U.S. is scanned by $1.5 million gamma ray machines capable of penetrating the heavy steel containers -- while the cars are rolling. Tractor trailers pass at least two inspection checkpoints, with some of them undergoing screening by huge X-ray booms that can scan a trailer in just over a minute. The images are displayed on computer screens that are viewed by agents in adjacent white vans. Every truck, railcar, passenger vehicle, and pedestrian must go through a radiation detector -- an effort to detect radioactive materials that terrorists could fashion into a dirty bomb. "More and better technology has definitely been made available to us over the last four years, and it's a real key to our operations," says José R. Uribe, assistant port director for trade operations at the U.S. Customs & Border Protection office in Laredo.

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