Border Security: Investigators Transported Radioactive Sources Across Our Nation's Borders at Two Locations Page: 2 of 12
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Highlights of GAO-06-939T, testimony
before the Subcommittee on International
Terrorism and Nonproliferation,
Committee on International Relations,
House of Representatives
Why GAO Did This Study
Given today's unprecedented
terrorism threat environment and
the resulting widespread
congressional and public interest in
the security of our nation's borders,
GAO conducted an investigation
testing whether radioactive sources
could be smuggled across U.S.
Most travelers enter the United
States through the nation's 154 land
border ports of entry. Department
of Homeland Security U.S. Customs
and Border Protection (CBP)
inspectors at ports of entry are
responsible for the primary
inspection of travelers to determine
their admissibility into the United
States and to enforce laws related
to preventing the entry of
contraband, such as drugs and
weapons of mass destruction.
GAO's testimony provides the
results of undercover tests made by
its investigators to determine
whether monitors at U.S. ports of
entry detect radioactive sources in
vehicles attempting to enter the
United States. GAO also provides
observations regarding the
procedures that CBP inspectors
followed during its investigation.
GAO has also issued a report on
the results of this investigation
Investigators Transported Radioactive
Sources Across Our Nation's Borders at
What GAO Found
For the purposes of this undercover investigation, GAO purchased a small
amount of radioactive sources and one secure container used to safely store
and transport the material from a commercial source over the telephone.
One of GAO's investigators, posing as an employee of a fictitious company
located in Washington, D.C., stated that the purpose of his purchase was to
use the radioactive sources to calibrate personal radiation detection pagers.
The purchase was not challenged because suppliers are not required to
determine whether prospective buyers have legitimate uses for radioactive
sources, nor are suppliers required to ask a buyer to produce an NRC
document when purchasing in small quantities. The amount of radioactive
sources GAO's investigator sought to purchase did not require an NRC
document. Subsequently, the company mailed the radioactive sources to an
address in Washington, D.C.
The radiation portal monitors properly signaled the presence of radioactive
material when our two teams of investigators conducted simultaneous
border crossings. Our investigators' vehicles were inspected in accordance
with most of the CBP policy at both the northern and southern borders.
However, GAO's investigators, using counterfeit documents, were able to
enter the United States with enough radioactive sources in the trunks of
their vehicles to make two dirty bombs. According to the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention, a dirty bomb is a mix of explosives, such as
dynamite, with radioactive powder or pellets. When the dynamite or other
explosives are set off, the blast carries radioactive material into the
surrounding area. The direct costs of cleanup and the indirect losses in trade
and business in the contaminated areas could be large. Hence, dirty bombs
are generally considered to be weapons of mass disruption instead of
weapons of mass destruction. GAO investigators were able to successfully
represent themselves as employees of a fictitious company present a
counterfeit bill of lading and a counterfeit NRC document during the
secondary inspections at both locations. The CBP inspectors never
questioned the authenticity of the investigators' counterfeit bill of lading or
the counterfeit NRC document authorizing them to receive, acquire, possess,
and transfer radioactive sources.
To view the full product, including the scope
and methodology, click on the link above.
For more information, contact Gregory D.
Kutz at (202) 512-7455 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
,United States Government Accountability Office
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United States. Government Accountability Office. Border Security: Investigators Transported Radioactive Sources Across Our Nation's Borders at Two Locations, text, July 5, 2006; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc290994/m1/2/: accessed February 18, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.