Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

December 8, 2005

Security on the highways…

Filed under: Ground Transport Security — by Christian Beckner on December 8, 2005

Bruce Schneier posts today on the Highway Watch program for truck security, and comments that it “has merit” because “it’s dynamic, it’s distributed, it relies on trained people paying attention, and it’s not focused on a specific threat.”

Those attributes are true, but I’m a bit less sanguine about the program, mainly because I don’t think it’s commensurate with the nature of the threat (given that trucks have been part of the m.o. of dozens of terror attacks around the world), and is a poor substitute for a comprehensive and strategic approach to truck security. I’ve been paying attention to this issue for a while now…and while there are no easy answers, given the wide open nature of the system, I do think that there needs to be a more systematic approach.

Today, four years after 9/11, the only two things that have really been done domestically on trucking security are Highway Watch (and the related ISAC) and background checks for hazmat truck drivers.

There are other things that could be considered to improve the security of the system. For example, is enough being done to ensure that al-Qaeda isn’t creating front companies that own and operate trucks? If a truck containing hazardous or explosive materials is stolen, what can law enforcement do to track it down? Is enough being done to make it more difficult for bad guys to rent trucks? Are there existing air and maritime security programs that have relevance for trucking security?

I don’t have answers to these questions, because we haven’t even begun to test hypothetical systems, policies, and technologies that might apply. There hasn’t really been a debate on what a smart, efficient truck security might look like, and we’ve defaulted to the policy of “let the truckers take care of it” with Highway Watch. If there is a terrorist attack in the U.S. involving a truck, we’re likely to see over-reaction in the other direction as a result. That’s why I think that Schneier’s a bit too optimistic in his post.

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Pingback by Homeland Security Watch » Blog Archive » Highway Watch revisited: what next for trucking security?

March 30, 2006 @ 2:21 am

[…] I agree that these are real risks. The security of an open system like trucking is in a sense only as good as its weakest link. That’s why I worry that we haven’t done enough to secure the trucking sector, especially hazmat trucks, and the 770,000 shipments of hazardous materials that are moved on trucks each day. As I noted in a post in December 2005, the only two significant things that DHS has really done on trucking security are fund Highway Watch and conduct background checks on hazmat drivers. And while useful, that is not enough. […]

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