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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Meanwhile, Off the EAST Coast, U.S. Wants Own Inspectors at Bahamas Port

The Bush administration will negotiate to station American customs inspectors at the largest seaport in the Bahamas, where the United States is hiring a Hong Kong conglomerate to help detect nuclear materials inside cargo, a senior customs official said Monday.

Any such agreement will require approval by the Bahamian government. Diplomatic talks are expected to begin soon to give agents from U.S. Customs and Border Protection a presence at the sprawling Freeport Container Port, just 65 miles from Florida's coast...

The administration has acknowledged the deal represents the first time a foreign company will be involved in running sophisticated U.S. radiation-detection equipment at an overseas port without American customs agents present.
Ahern was expected to testify Tuesday at a Senate oversight hearing on radiation detectors in the United States. He said the Homeland Security Department originally intended to station U.S. customs inspectors in the Bahamas by spring under its port-security program, called the Container Security Initiative.

The pending diplomatic talks were confirmed by John Meredith, the group managing director for Hutchison's port subsidiary, which runs the Bahamas port.

"They are getting close to fixing up a deal between the Bahamas and the U.S.," Meredith told the AP. "If they want to put American people out there to have a look at it, that's fine. But people should respect also that you've got to have trusted partnerships, both with the private sector and with foreign governments."

The Bahamas contract is being finalized by the National Nuclear Security Administration, part of the Energy Department. It has said employees of Hutchison -- the world's largest ports operator -- will drive the towering, truck-like radiation scanner at the port under the direct supervision of Bahamian customs officials...

The GAO urges the installation of radiation monitors at ports pronto if not sooner!


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