10News was granted access to San Diego's seaport for a firsthand look at how Customs and Border Protection officers safeguard against weapons of mass effect.
"Given the open waterways and the access to the Navy fleet here, I'd say, absolutely, San Diego is a target," said Al Hallor, who is the assistant port director and an officer with Customs and Border Protection.
10News investigative reporter Mitch Blacher asked, "Do you ever find things that are dangerous like a chemical agent or a weaponized device?"
"At the airport, seaport, at our port of entry we have not this past fiscal year, but our partner agencies have found those things," said Hallor.
Customs and Border Protection officers clear 80 percent of all cargo before it enters the United States. Congress has mandated that they clear 100 percent of cargo imports by 2012. In San Diego, every cargo container is driven through a radiation detector before leaving San Diego's seaport.
"So, specifically, you're looking for the dirty bomb? You're looking for the nuclear device?" asked Blacher.
"Correct. Weapons of mass effect," Hallor said.
"You ever found one?" asked Blacher.
"Not at this location," Hallor said.
"But they have found them?" asked Blacher.
"Yes," said Hallor.
"You never found one in San Diego though?" Blacher asked.
"I would say at the port of San Diego we have not," Hallor said.
"Have you found one in San Diego?" Blacher asked.
The interview was interrupted before Hallor was able to answer the question.
Customs and Border Protection issued this statement after the interview:
CBP has not specifically had any incidents with nuclear devices or nuclear materials at our ports of entry. CBP is an all-threats agency. The purpose of many security measures is to prevent threats from ever materializing by being prepared for them. And, we must be prepared to stop threats in whatever form they do materialize at the border, whether its an individual or cargo arriving by land, air, or sea. Regardless of what the contraband or threat is, were being smart, evaluating, and focusing in on anything or anyone that is potentially high-risk.We were able to show you first-hand one example of how we evaluate segment risk, inspect, etc. in the cargo environment by air and sea here in San Diego. This is one portion of the CBP mission, and hopefully gives you some examples of how much has evolved in the past decade, with the new technologies we have at our disposal. This, coupled with document requirements at the border, advanced passenger and cargo information, better information sharing, and many other measures help us to secure the border - and each measure doesnt work individually or in a vacuum, but rather in the layered security that we were able to demonstrate one facet of.
Local Security Expert Reacts To Interview
Former Secret Service agent and airline security director Glen Winn watched 10News' unedited interview with Hallor and shared his thoughts.
"This person (Hallor) was, I believe, knowledgeable, has a very important position with the Port and the government, and as such has that knowledge," Winn said.
Winn continued, "You posed some very serious questions as to security gaps and discoveries that perhaps have taken place in this area. I want to know how many and where did you find them so if I'm in that area, driving around and I see something that is out of place, I make a phone call."
Kurt Bardella, spokesman for Rep. Darrell Issa, released this statement:
"Port security is on our agenda. Obviously, this falls into that. We want to ensure that we have the highest possible threshold for port security and that's an ongoing priority for Congressman Issa. It's important when dealing with sensitive national security information we get all the facts before reaching judgments or conclusions."
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