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The Port issue: Neither side seems interested in security
Posted by: McQ on Monday, October 02, 2006

How many times have we heard port security touted as vital and lacking? How many times have we heard both sides claim we need to do more in that area?

Well, John Fund says while legislation has been passed, via the Port Security Act last Saturday, how secure it makes the ports, in reality, is an open question. Here's why:
But the House-Senate conference drastically watered down a Senate-passed requirement that aligned the standards for hiring dock workers with those used at airports and nuclear plants. The statute still bans workers who have been convicted of treason, espionage and terror-related offenses—a mere handful at most. But a seven-year time-out period on hiring those who've committed crimes such as murder, bribery, identity fraud and the illegal use of firearms was dropped in the dead of night at the behest of unions fearful that too many of their members could lose their jobs.
Sen. Jim DeMint introduced the provision to require background checks of all dock workers prior to giving them access to security sensitive jobs and areas. As he explains:
"The security stakes are too high to trust serious felons who could be manipulated or bribed by people trying to smuggle a nuclear device or chemical weapon into our ports," says Sen. Jim DeMint, sponsor of the dropped provision. Security analysts echo his fears. They say terrorists working with truck drivers could plant a bomb aboard a cruise ship or pack a 40-foot cargo container with explosives. Stephen Flynn, a former U.S. Customs official now with the Council on Foreign Relations, told ABC News that "if a bomb went off in a seaport, we would likely see a closing of the seaports, bringing the global trade system to a halt and potentially putting our economy into recession."

Officials at several ports echo these concerns. "There is a gaping hole in port security," Byron Miller of the Charleston, S.C., port, the nation's sixth largest, told me. "Right now, by law we cannot do background checks on 8,000 people who work at this port." He noted that a state bill to provide for background checks was killed last year after unions applied a full-court press against it.
So it sounds like a typical "business as usual" approach. Democrats talk "tough" about security, raise cain about lax port security, but when given the opportunity to actually do so, cave into labor unions and remove the tough security provision before the bill is passed.

Well not so fast Bunky. If only it were that simple. In fact, it was a bi-partisan effort which removed the provision. Led by Democrat Daniel Inouye of Hawaii (whose office, btw, claims he supported the DeMint provision) the effort also included a couple of Republicans:
Other legislators were also involved in smothering the DeMint provision. The staffs of three members of Congress told me that Republican Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, a close friend of Mr. Inouye, also fought the measure, although his staff declined to publicly discuss the senator's position on the bill. New York's Rep. Peter King, the pro-union Republican who chairs the Homeland Security Committee, told the House that the list of proposed criminal offenses "includes vague and overly broad crimes" and supported the move "to narrow and limit the list." Mississippi's Rep. Bennie Thompson, the ranking Democrat on Homeland Security, told colleagues that "we should not play judge and jury" and opposed even the final statutory ban on felons convicted of treason and terror-related crimes. Steve Stallone, the communications director for the West Coast-based International Longshore and Warehouse Union, told the Daily Labor Report that barring felons from jobs at secure dock facilities would be "double jeopardy" and could push them back into crime to make a living.
You have to ask yourself if it is ever again possible for legislators in this country to actually put the security of the nation ahead of partisan political concerns or the concerns of special interest groups.

Given the defeat of the DeMint provision, felons who've committed crimes precisely like the one's we're trying to prevent in our ports get a free pass to access in those ports thanks to both Republicans and Democrats on this committee. It is idiocy like this which constantly reinforces my conclusion that for the most part, neither side is capable of putting the country before politics and the special interests that drive them.
 
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"...neither side is capable of putting the country before politics and the special interests that drive them."

-EXACTLY!

Our Congress is a train wreck that has already happened.
 
Written By: Laime
URL: http://
So what? The worse case scenario is simply getting a ship into the harbor and setting off whatever the devil is inside of it.

You could replace each and every dock worker with robots or zombies and not solve that problem.
 
Written By: Mark A. Flacy
URL: http://
Just like DHS, the only major concern of the the Democrats is securing union jobs.
Virtually every Democratic proposal seems to require an increase in union jobs.
Given that the largest unions are now state and federal government worker unions, all those new, and I do mean new, security jobs at the seaports would be union, payback for all those campaign contributions and labor for get out the vote efforts.
 
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
If I understand this correctly, you are seeing the problem here as the Democrats giving a gift to the unions by not allowing security background checks to go back more than 7 years, allowing the possibility of people with serious felonies in their history beyond 7 years to be employed at our nations ports in with potential access to secure areas?

You are not seeing this is preventing the out-of-hand firing of anyone with felonies over 7 ago and a clean record for at least 7 years?

In order for this to be a valid argument, I think it makes sense to understand two things about our society.

One is that we are most prosecutorial countries on earth and as a result, there are an enormous number number of people who have been convicted of felonies at some point in their lives. Over 30,000,000 Americans are walking around with a felony conviction at some time in their lives, most longer than 7 years ago, and another 3 million will be released from prison with felony convictions in the next 5 years. These are almost all adult men in the in the non-professional labor force.

Second, currently, there are very, very few occupations that restrict employment to people with a felony conviction over 7 years prior with a clean history for at least 7 years, but a great many occupations that are restricted to people without a felony for the last 7 years. One has to ask, once they have served their sentence handed down by the justice, when does the sentence really end?

In 2002, John Ashcroft, and the Republican Congress agreed that 7 years is an appropriate amount of time to establish one’s rehabilitation to work in a security environment.
Accordingly, the Attorney General should recommend that Congress adopt the model of the Maritime Transportation Security Act of 2002 and other federal laws that impose reasonable timelimits on disqualifying offenses. For example, the MTSA limits the age of most disqualifying offenses to 7 years since the conviction or 5 years from release, whichever event occurred more recently. (46 U.S.C. Section 70105(c)). These standards should apply not only to specific screening requirements mandated by federal law, but also to those situations where the states or private employers are authorized by federal law to receive the FBI national criminal records for employment and licensing purposes. d. All workers with disqualifying offenses should be provided an opportunity to establish that they have been rehabilitated and do not pose a safety or security threat.
So I can understand the unions looking out for people who have turned their lives around, and I can understand our elected representatives looking out for these CITIZENS as well.

What I can’t understand is the political hay made against people looking out for these citizens. What is wrong with protecting our workers AND protecting ports? Do you think they are mutually exclusive? Do you really think that the people who made this an issue did it because they want protect ports, or because it’s effective to tell voters that the other side is protecting felons?

Either they have paid their debt to society or they have not. If you think they are a danger, then you should lobby for laws incarcerating these people forever, otherwise, after a reasonable period with a clean record, these people should be able to work.

This is just more Republican scare tactics, trying to make you afraid of your neighbors while they sell port management to nations that fund terrorists.

Cap


 
Written By: CaptinSarcastic
URL: http://
But a seven-year time-out period on hiring those who’ve committed crimes such as murder, bribery, identity fraud and the illegal use of firearms was dropped in the dead of night at the behest of unions fearful that too many of their members could lose their jobs.
Yep, just average joes that made a wrong turn somewhere. I guess the illegal use of firearms would include armed robbery.

I don’t think CaptinSarcastic would recognize a security risk if it bit him in the behind.
 
Written By: Mark A. Flacy
URL: http://
Officials at several ports echo these concerns. "There is a gaping hole in port security," Byron Miller of the Charleston, S.C., port, the nation’s sixth largest, told me. "Right now, by law we cannot do background checks on 8,000 people who work at this port." He noted that a state bill to provide for background checks was killed last year after unions applied a full-court press against it.
Ya know Cap - there’s a huge difference between being ABLE to run a background check on a guy, and deciding the guy can’t work on a job.

If you can’t run a background check, then for all you know, John Q. Smith used to be Muhammed Abdul Al-death-to-America before he changed his name 4 years ago. But since we can’t background check the clown AT ALL we won’t be able to see that will we.

And as to the Republicans trying to scare you - what the hell? Didn’t you read the part where McQ pointed out this bill was killed in a bi-partisan effort?
What, did you think bi-partisan meant the Democrats and Ross Perot’s United-we-stand party?
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
Ya know Cap - there’s a huge difference between being ABLE to run a background check on a guy, and deciding the guy can’t work on a job.
That part struck me as odd and inaccurate. From my understanding, they CAN run background checks, but not for criminal convictions past seven years.

I could be wrong, but I suspect that when they say they can’t run background checks, they mean they can’t run them for the period beyond 7 years past.

As for the particulars of the crime, the person would have had to have been out of jail for 5 years or 7 years past conviction. So let’s say it was armed robbery. If they served 20 years for this crime and got out and stayed out of trouble 5 years, I’m good.

Look, if you think a person is no longer fit to be a normal citizen EVER after being convicted of a crime, fine, then lobby for life sentences without parole for any offense you want. But you can’t have people put back in society and then tell them they can’t work... otherwise they will find their own way to get by, foodstamps and/or crime.
I don’t think CaptinSarcastic would recognize a security risk if it bit him in the behind.
I guess I am just not a wuss like who is afraid of the big bad ex-con.

Why don’t you tell me where it is okay for ex-con’s, even released murderers and the like, to work after they have COMPLETELY served their sentence PLUS 7 years?

7-11? Don’t children shop there?

School janitor? Oh my gosh!

Sanitation worker?

Security Guard at the mall?

Day Care center operator?

Baggage handler?

Why don’t you grow a pair and recognize that American ex-cons are as likely as anyone, perhaps moreso, to kick the crap out of terrorists.

Cap
 
Written By: CaptinSarcastic
URL: http://
And as to the Republicans trying to scare you - what the hell? Didn’t you read the part where McQ pointed out this bill was killed in a bi-partisan effort?
What, did you think bi-partisan meant the Democrats and Ross Perot’s United-we-stand party?
If John Fund is selling it, it’s a RNC tactic. McQ is not passing this on as the straight RNC talking point Fund presented... good for McQ.

Cap
 
Written By: CaptinSarcastic
URL: http://
To me they are only security risks if their crime hasn’t been discovered, then coercion, blackmail, etc can be employed against them.

Bribary is a danger for anyone, let’s use some of our recent politicians as classic examples of guys who can pass background checks and yet don’t know that taking bribes is a problem. Even a guy who went to jail once understands a nuke or an LNG ship going off in his hometown of, say, Baltimore, is probably going to f-up the day of his family and a lot of people he knows and likes. So I can see the bribary danger (and they lie to him, of course), but cooperation with the terrorists, I’m thinking not.

I’m trying to see how I have to get a security clearance for a guy who committed armed-robbery, served his time, and is now employed or trying to get employed as a dockworker, so far I’m not having much luck. Dock worker, security clearance, just not making it for me unless he’s working at a Naval facility as a civilian contractor.

On the other hand, guys who maybe grew up in Saudi Arabia, and became citizens recently, them I might want to look at much more closely, even if they don’t have a criminal record.

But if I can’t run background checks, I don’t get to make the choice.
If they’re restricted to not looking back before a certain time period, I’m fine with that, but totally restricted would be foolish.
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
The agenda also calls for enacting recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, formed after the 2001 terror attacks, to boost national security and funding for it
If you dig down a bit you find that this means ports and food security. This is not what we have now. This is a new layer of security in the ports and food services industries.

If you want to hear the Democratic leadership jump into full yelling, screaming and gnashing of teeth mode, make a comment to the effect that .. increased security in the ports and food services industries, required to bring compliance with the 9/11 Commission, should be handled by the DHS in the same manner as the TSA, non-union.
 
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
" I guess the illegal use of firearms would include armed robbery.’

Maybe, but one would hope that an armed robbery conviction would also show up. Illegal use of firearms could also be shooting a squirrel in your back yard.
************************8888

"Right now, by law we cannot do background checks on 8,000 people who work at this port"

That is just one port. How many people nationwide will need these background checks, and who is going to do them? It is my understanding that background checks and security clearances already take a considerable length of time. In a few more years half the work force will be doing background checks on the other half.

Will all these background checks do anything about the influence and activities of organized crime in the ports and the unions?
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Speaking of ports ..
did any notice the fanfare indicating that the Alaska pipeline and the BP Prudhoe Bay field are fully back online ??
Of course, you didn’t, but it is.

It was big enough for a Congressional investigation a few weeks back, but not it goes unmentioned.
 
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
I agree with Capt. Sarcastic,

Wow, twice in one day.
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://

Why don’t you grow a pair and recognize that American ex-cons are as likely as anyone, perhaps moreso, to kick the crap out of terrorists.
Really, Cap? Where does an ex-con (love the blanket analysis, btw) stand on the "likely to be bought off" scale?

Would it be OK to talk about the Nation of Islam and its prison recruiting efforts now? Port jobs for everyone! Be free!
 
Written By: Pablo
URL: http://
Really, Cap? Where does an ex-con (love the blanket analysis, btw) stand on the "likely to be bought off" scale?


That’s what you want to base your discrimination on? Some nebulous idea that an ex-con, because they had done something illegal in the distant past, is an easier target for bribery?

Sorry, doesn’t wash. An ex-con who has stayed out of trouble for 7 years is likely MORE honest than your average citizen, obviously having been on the wrong side of the law and NOT liking the results enough to go straight.

I have known ex-con’s and the one’s go straight don’t walk a fine line, they know that they are presumed guilty, so they stay far, far inside the line.

A guy with a mortgage, two cars, two kids, and a timeshare is more susceptible to bribery than an ex-con who’s gone straight.

Congressmen are higher on the "likely to be bought off" scale. Of course Congressmen, being bought off is pretty much a way of life.

I am just glad that I do not have live in the state of fear that you seem to call home.

Boogeymen everywhere.... BOO!

Cap

Cap
 
Written By: CaptinSarcastic
URL: http://
An ex-con who has stayed out of trouble for 7 years is likely MORE honest than your average citizen, obviously having been on the wrong side of the law and NOT liking the results enough to go straight.
Felons are MORE honest than people who’ve never committed a crime? That’s an interesting supposition, though it smacks of reverse discrimination. "Ex-cons are BETTER people than law abiding citizens! Because!"

Got any data to support this? How about those ex-cons who have stayed out of trouble using the time tested method of not getting caught?

I am just glad that I do not have live in the state of fear that you seem to call home.
You seem to be afraid of background checks for sensitive jobs, Cap. As has been pointed out to you already, a previous conviction doesn’t automatically bar someone from a job. What is it you think I’m afraid of?
 
Written By: Pablo
URL: http://
Got any data to support this? How about those ex-cons who have stayed out of trouble using the time tested method of not getting caught?
How about those law abiding citizens that stayed out of trouble using the time tested method of not getting caught?
You seem to be afraid of background checks for sensitive jobs, Cap.
Not at all, I recommend them highly. I use them myself. I believe that a felony conviction should not be a scarlett letter that one wears for the rest of their lives. It is my sense of fairness and decency that suggests that if a person stays out of trouble for more than 7 years, they should be given the benefit of the doubt and looked as a person without a criminal record.
As has been pointed out to you already, a previous conviction doesn’t automatically bar someone from a job. What is it you think I’m afraid of?
You have admitted that you are afraid of someone with a felony conviction older than 7 years past working in our ports because you seem to think that American ex-cons are more likely to be terrorists and/or can more easily be bribed by terrorists to gain access to stuff so they can kill Americans.
Really, Cap? Where does an ex-con (love the blanket analysis, btw) stand on the "likely to be bought off" scale?
You are afraid of the Nation of Islam...
Would it be OK to talk about the Nation of Islam and its prison recruiting efforts now? Port jobs for everyone! Be free!
But it was someone else who had suggested that since I am not fearful enought to discriminate against someone who had committed a crime more than seven years ago that I could not recognize a security risk if it bit my behing. That was where my initial assertion of fearfulness came from. You jumped and and followed the same line of reasoning, but were not the person I was specifically responding to.

Still and all, grow a pair and let these people live, they are no more of a security risk, after 7 years straight, than anyone else.

Cap


 
Written By: CaptinSarcastic
URL: http://
Sorry, doesn’t wash. An ex-con who has stayed out of trouble for 7 years is likely MORE honest than your average citizen, obviously having been on the wrong side of the law and NOT liking the results enough to go straight.

I have known ex-con’s and the one’s go straight don’t walk a fine line, they know that they are presumed guilty, so they stay far, far inside the line.

A guy with a mortgage, two cars, two kids, and a timeshare is more susceptible to bribery than an ex-con who’s gone straight.
I’ve know my fair share of ex-cons, and frankly they are mostly ’born loosers’ who don’t know how to stay out of trouble. And that applies to the ’nice’ ones, not the mean-ass mo-fos.

The guy with the mortgage and kids can’t afford trouble, and isn’t likely to find it.
It is my sense of fairness and decency that suggests that if a person stays out of trouble for more than 7 years, they should be given the benefit of the doubt and looked as a person without a criminal record.
That might be fine, if their prior criminal record didn’t include violent rape, armed robbery, and other violent crime. Call me backwards, but I don’t care if your last rape/murder ocurred over 7 years ago.
You are afraid of the Nation of Islam...
Nation of Islam ties suggests a serious security risk. That’s not ’fear’, that’s a reasonable assesment.
Still and all, grow a pair and let these people live, they are no more of a security risk, after 7 years straight, than anyone else.
It is a simple fact that some of "these people" shouldn’t even be alive (released felons have gone on to committ horrible crimes), any many of them shouldn’t be free. Overall, they do represent a security risk above that of normal citizens.

This isn’t an issue of "growing a pair", it is a policy issue. You need to "grow" an argument.
 
Written By: Don
URL: http://
I don’t know what the hiring process is for dockworkers, but I assume that, like many other jobs, it involves filling out an application which includes a work history and references. Some jobs on the docks may involve bonding, which usually requires some sort of background check. Will this proposed background check be any more thorough? Will it be as thorough as the one Aldrich Ames and others underwent? And what about temporary employees or truck drivers, contractors, etc. who will also have acccess? Face it, folks, unless you turn this country into a real police state any security program implemented will be like trying to catch minnows with a bass net.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
I’ve know my fair share of ex-cons, and frankly they are mostly ’born loosers’ who don’t know how to stay out of trouble. And that applies to the ’nice’ ones, not the mean-ass mo-fos.
You have contradicted your own argument and made my point, thank you.

Many people, once convicted of a felony, are simply not able to stay out of trouble. There are numerous reasons for this, prison, the difficulty of having a criminal record in our society, and other excuses. That makes it all the more reason that the people who DO stay out of trouble be given the benefit of the doubt. I am NOT talking about born losers, I am talking about self starters who are willing to take what society throws at them for years until they can get to the point where society lets the criminal past go (7 years) and now you want to take that away from them because you’re scared of a guy who may have hurt someone once.
Nation of Islam ties suggests a serious security risk. That’s not ’fear’, that’s a reasonable assesment.
You’re ridiculous. Why don’t you just make it illegal for Muslims to work in the US.

One lunatic who was associated with the NOI went nuts and shot people, so now the whole group is a serious security risk?

A methodist shot up a school, let’s make sure not to hire Methodists.... jeeez

Serious security risk, what a joke.



 
Written By: Captin Sarcastic
URL: http://
That makes it all the more reason that the people who DO stay out of trouble be given the benefit of the doubt.
Why, yes. Especially those people who through great effort and personal sacrifice managed to not commit (or not get caught at) murder, bribery, identity fraud and the illegal use of firearms at all in their entire lives.

Yeah, what was I thinking? Of course we couldn’t find enough people in that pool to fill all the dock worker positions.
 
Written By: Mark A. Flacy
URL: http://
Why, yes. Especially those people who through great effort and personal sacrifice managed to not commit (or not get caught at) murder, bribery, identity fraud and the illegal use of firearms at all in their entire lives.

Yeah, what was I thinking? Of course we couldn’t find enough people in that pool to fill all the dock worker positions.
I understand your point and disagree.

You are advocating a position that allows for people who have been convicted of a felony to be discriminated against for the rest of their lives never, ever being able to put this behind them.

If that is your position, you should simply lobby and support life sentences without parole for all felony convictions. There is not much point in having people serve their sentences, send them back into society, and telling them that they can’t work. We may as well give them a gun and crowbar when they leave prison.

And don’t bothering arguing that this is just one little job they can’t get. Once the capability of lifetime background checks is in place it will expand to more and more positions, just as the 7 year background check was initially for jobs with security vulnerability, and now it is SOP for most jobs.

30 million people out there with felony convictions, not an insignificant portion of the workforce.





 
Written By: CaptinSarcastic
URL: http://

 
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