Democrats call for inspection of all containers

Democrats call for inspection of all containers

The Democrats are calling for physical inspection of all ocean containers entering the United States, charging that the Bush administration has tolerated too low a standard to protect the U.S. from terrorism.

"One hundred percent of containers coming into our ports or airports must be inspected. Today only 3 percent are inspected," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Tuesday night.

Her comment came as part of the Democratic response to President Bush's State of the Union address.

Pelosi also called for greater security at U.S. chemical and nuclear plants, and better communications with first-responders. She said that the technology to achieve these goals exists, but the administration "has refused to commit the resources necessary."

"We know what we must do to protect America, but this Administration is failing to meet the challenge," Pelosi said.

In testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee last September, Robert C. Bonner, commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, said that since 2001 overall inspections of land and water cargo had increased to 12.1 percent from 7.6 percent. The inspection rate for sea containers was 5.2 percent; rail, 22.6 percent; truck, 15.1 percent.

-- R.G. Edmonson in Washington