Letter to the Editor: What protection do we have?

Letter to the Editor: What protection do we have?

Letters to the Editor

Since I first raised the issue at the Alameda City Council meeting of an Anti-Terrorist and Contraband Enforcement Team (A-TCET) site in West Alameda, I have done some more research. What I found is somewhat alarming. First, why is there a need for these sites? Quoting from the document "Protecting America, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 2005–2010 Strategic Plan" (Page 8):

The global threat posed by terrorism, at home and abroad, continues to impact nearly all aspects of international security, trade and commerce. The commercial maritime domain may be most at risk from exploitation by terrorists, potentially resulting in massive disruptions to global economies. Increased terrorist calls for attacks specifically against Western economic targets, as well as growing indications of terrorist intentions to use weapons of mass destruction, highlight the assessed likelihood that maritime trade will remain a tool of choice to support or carry out such attacks. Current intelligence indicates that, of the various potential terrorist choices for weapons of mass destruction, a radiological dispersal device (“dirty bomb”) or chemical weapons agent may be the most likely and both are well-suited to smuggling via sea container. An al Qaeda plot to smuggle explosives in containers to the United States was revealed in 2003 with the detainment of Saifullah Paracha, a Pakistani businessman who ran an import/export business in New York.

We have been told that we shouldn't worry because all the cargo is x-rayed at the Port before it comes through the tube to Alameda, but according to the British newspaper The Guardian:

Some experts, many working at companies developing new screening technology, have raised concerns over whether x-rays could find cleverly disguised plastic explosive, which can be moulded into almost any shape.

Furthermore, it is illegal for hazardous materials to pass through the tubes according to Caltrans. The California Highway Patrol enforces this law. They would have to approve the transfer of explosives, radioactive materials, and chemical weapons through the tube, which leads me to the following questions for Mayor Gilmore and the City Council:

1. Is it true that some explosive materials can escape x-ray detection?
2. How about plastic explosives?
3. Can you guarantee that no explosives or other hazardous materials will ever get through to Alameda?
4. Is there a contingency plan if explosives, hazardous chemicals, or other dangerous materials are found?
5. If not, why not? If yes, what is it?
6. Did U.S. Customs seek permission from the City of Alameda to conduct A-TCET activities in Alameda?
7. If so, what agency or department did they contact to request permission?
8. Did anyone approve the use? If so, who?
9. Was the City Council and/or the mayor notified of the A-TCET pending contract and the diversion of A-TCET cargo to Alameda?
10. Did U.S. Customs seek the approval of Caltrans to ship A-TCET cargo through the tubes?
11. Did U.S. Customs know that hazardous cargo is not allowed in the tubes by Caltrans?
12. Are you aware that U.S. Customs considers sea containers as a prime threat from terrorists shipping explosives into the U.S.?

We residents of West Alameda deserve an answer to these questions.

Irma Garcia-Sinclair