False alarms: secure shipping containers remain an elusive goal.

Author:Magnuson, Stew
Position:SECURITY BEAT: Homeland Defense Briefs

The goal of finding a device that detects when a shipping container has been tampered with "still lies just beyond our grasp," said Customs and Border Protection Commissioner W. Ralph Basham.

For six years, the Department of Homeland Security agency has been working on the problem. The fear is that a terrorist could break in and hide weapons of mass destruction or their components in a shipping container without the owner's knowledge.

"The perfect technology is probably a long way off and may prove to be far too expensive," he said at a Center for Strategic and International Studies panel discussion.

Requirements for a "smart box" or "container security device" will be published "soon," Basham said, but he declined to be more specific. If CBP finds a device that meets the requirements, it will complete operational tests within 60 to 90 days, he said. The devices should be able to remotely alert customs officers when a container has been breached.

Although considered one of the top priorities for improving shipping container security, the alarms have proven to be a difficult technological hurdle, DHS and industry sources have said. The...

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