Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Advocate.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Suspicious packages bound for United States contain explosive material, President says

Two packages, bound for Jewish synagogues in the United States, were intercepted abroad and found to contain explosive material, President Obama confirmed today at White House press briefing.

The packages, which originated in Yemen, were found and examined last night, according to authorities. The discoveries prompted searches of cargo aircraft and trucks at several locations here in the United States, including at Newark Liberty and Philadelphia International Airports, to see whether there might be additional packages with similar material in transit. None have been identified yet so far.

The United States' two largest courier firms each said they were assisting federal security and intelligence agencies in the investigation.

"UPS is fully cooperating with authorities who are monitoring reports of potentially suspicious packages on board cargo flights," the United Parcel Service said in a statement. "We can confirm that authorities have investigated two aircraft in Philadelphia and one in Newark. All of these aircraft have landed safely. Security is of the utmost importance to UPS."

"In cooperation with the FBI, local authorities have confiscated a suspicious package at the FedEx facility in Dubai," FedEx said.

"The shipment originated in Yemen and as an additional safety measure, FedEx has embargoed all shipments originating from Yemen. The Company is cooperating fully with the authorities on this matter; any additional information regarding this matter must come from the FBI."

There has been some speculation that the intercepted packages were a "dry run", intended to test the feasibility of having bombs delivered by shipping companies. But if terrorists wanted to send bombs through UPS and FedEx, why wouldn't they give it their best shot the first go-around? It seems more likely that this is a terrorist prank, meant to scare us and get us stirred up. That's not to say that counterterrorism officials shouldn't treat this as a major threat; they should. News networks, on the other hand, should avoid blowing this out of proportion and ginning up a hard news scare-a-thon right before Halloween.

One final thought: It's kind of ridiculous that we have put so much energy and money into "security measures" that result in harassed and inconvenienced passengers at airports, when terrorist have other ways of striking at us.

Our own senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell know this, which is why they've been working on increasing security at our ports the last several years. We should be scanning all cargo that comes in from abroad, including everything that's in those mammoth shipping containers.

Forget high tech scanners designed to peer into Americans' bodily orifices... let's do a better job of inspecting what's going through our ports.


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