Former DHS inspector general Clark Kent Ervin had an editorial in Washington Post yesterday that criticizes former DHS Deputy Secretary Adm. James Loy for not doing enough to promote port security when he was at DHS. The editorial is egregiously misleading and twists the facts to support Ervin’s argument.
The former deputy secretary of homeland security, retired Adm. James Loy, has made arguments that boil down to this: Our ports are already so vulnerable to terrorist penetration that complaining about turning port terminals over to such a government is making a mountain out of a mole hill. Laying aside the fact that it’s odd for someone considered an expert on security to advocate a course of action that might make the country somewhat less safe, the most striking thing to me was his admission that our ports are already dangerously vulnerable.
Ervin cites the New York Times op-ed that Adm. Loy co-authored with Steve Flynn as the source for his summary of Loy’s arguments and his “admission” that ports are vulnerable. I’ve read and re-read the article, and that is a very misleading synopsis of the piece. Flynn and Loy focus on the need for a more comprehensive and strategic approach to port and supply chain security (something that Loy worked to develop at the Dec. 2004 Homeland Security Cargo Summit), possibly using the container scanning system that has been developed in Hong Kong. Ervin must either be projecting the ideas in his synopsis on Loy, or if they are from a different source, then he should cite it.
Ervin then criticizes Loy for never speaking out about the need to do more on port security when he was the Deputy Secretary at DHS:
I served as the inspector general of DHS during Loy’s tenure as a high official there, and I do not recall a single instance of his having said anything like that. In office, he bragged about such chimerical department programs as C-TPAT (Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism), whereby shipping companies merely sign paperwork affirming that they have rigorous security measures in place in exchange for agreement from the DHS to subject them to less scrutiny.
C-TPAT is far from “chimerical,” but more importantly, the bolded quote above is completely and utterly false. I dug around for ten minutes and found the following quotes and clips from Loy’s tenure at DHS:
From a Senate Select Intelligence Committee hearing in February 2005:
Loy: The threat is as real here. We have the same kind of exercise program to think our way through the nightmare scenarios on the maritime sector, as in any other sector. Ports represent that place where it all comes together. Ninety-five percent of what comes and goes to this country comes and goes by the water. So the port complexes are clearly a targeted area for the terrorists.
From an LA Times story in October 2004:
Experts at the conference said it would take only one incident involving a single container to bring shipping to a halt in the United States and cause billions of dollars in damage.
Deputy Homeland Security Secretary James Loy told the conference that was a “dramatic challenge.” He said officials had put a lot of work into contingency plans, but they were far from complete.
“Can I stand here and suggest to you we have it all figured out? Not even close,” Loy said.
From a speech at the Maritime and Port Security Conference in February 2004:
Loy: Our ships and ports are more valuable to the global economy than any other mode of transportation – and, I would suggest, more vulnerable, especially to an enemy whose self-professed desire is to “destroy our economy.”
These are just a few examples of Loy talking about the need to do more on port and cargo security, and completely consistent with the impression that I’ve always had of him, as a serious and thoughtful champion of the need to improve port and cargo security. As the quotes above indicate, he’s consistently argued both in and out of government that we need to do more. Can he speak more freely as a private citizen? Sure, that’s the reality of modern government. But to argue that Loy is a latter-day convert to the cause of port security is b***s**t.