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Bush Signs Port Security Act, Starts Clock Ticking on Provisions

SAFE Port Act sets timetables for programs, includes ban on Internet gambling Washington -- President Bush has signed into law a port security bill authorizing $3.4 billion over five years for security measures. Congress passed the bill September 30 before adjourning to campaign ahead of November congressional elections. (See related article.) At the October 13 signing ceremony, Bush said, “Our seaports are a gateway to commerce, a source of opportunity, and a provider of jobs. But the ports could also be targets for terrorists, he said, and the U.S. government is “determined to protect them. The new law codifies several security programs already under way, setting timetables for them in some cases. It places deadlines on the Department of Homeland Security for expansion of security programs with shippers and overseas ports -- the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism and the Container Security Initiative -- and requires the department to develop a plan to resume maritime commerce in the event of a terrorist attack on a U.S. port. Within three months from the October 13 signing date, three overseas ports will be chosen for a pilot program in which 100 percent of cargo being sent to the United States will be scanned by radiation detectors. By six months from the signing date, pilot programs must begin to test the readers of biometric identification cards that port workers will carry. The bill will require the 22 largest U.S. ports to scan all incoming cargo for radiological weapons by the end of September 2007. The bill was stripped of measures dealing with rail and mass-transit security before Congress passed it. But a ban on Internet gambling was added to it, which will harm the earnings of overseas companies that had offered online poker to U.S. players. For more information on U.S. policy, see International Security. (Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov">http://usinfo.state.gov)

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