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DHS plans new cargo security rules

WASHINGTON, April 24 (UPI) -- The Department of Homeland Security is planning to issue new regulations to improve cargo and port security.

The DHS measures will go beyond what Congress might require through legislation, the department's policy chief told CongressDaily Friday.

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Stewart Baker, assistant Homeland Security secretary for policy, said the department generally liked what it saw in legislation moving through Congress to improve cargo and port security but would pursue rulemaking for areas not covered by the bills.

"We would like to move out pretty currently," Baker told CongressDaily after a keynote speech during the 2006 Counterterrorism Conference in Washington. "Congress is moving swiftly on legislation; we have an obligation to move out quickly on things that we can do without legislation."

However, Baker was not forthcoming about the specific rules now under consideration, CongrsssDaily said.

During his speech, Baker said the DHS wanted foreign ports to do a better job of screening cargo before it is loaded on ships bound for the United States. He said the department was also "looking hard" at whether new mechanical or electronic seals can be used to secure containers.

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Baker said a private-sector initiative at the Port of Hong Kong that was developed to improve cargo screening appears to be working but has limitations.

Through the initiative, every container moving through two port terminals is screened by a radiation detector, a gamma ray X-ray and an optical character recognition system. Data about each container, including the images of what is inside, is stored in an electronic database for inspectors to review.

Baker said the initiative showed that a lot of cargo can be moved through an advanced screening system effectively, but added there is no process now to review information collected from the screens.

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