Congressional Hearing On Port Security

It's no secret that ports are among the most vulnerable terrorist targets, as the volume of traffic gives them more opportunities.

Katy Congressman Mike McCaul chaired a hearing of a subcommittee of Homeland Security at the Houston Port Authority offices near the ship channel. He told participants that information gathered from Osama Bin Laden's compound after his death revealed a treasure trove of documents, like one that outlined a spectacular potential attack on the 10 year anniversary of 9-11, and that oil tankers were potential targets.

testimony to the subcommittee
Stephen Caldwell, director of Maritime and Coast Guard Issues; Captain James Whitehead III, U.S. Coast Guard; Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia; James Edmonds, Chairman Houston Port Authority; and Bill Diehl, president of the Greater Houston Port Bureau

He told the hearing that would make the Port of Houston vulnerable.

"Roughly 25 percent of the oil imports for America flow through the Port of Houston, and 31 percent of America's crude oil refining capacity takes place right here in this harbor. In short, an attack on the Houston port could cripple this nation."

Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia is no stranger to congressional hearings on Homeland Security. Testifying in Washington last month, he said that his office needed more money to protect the Port of Houston.

He repeated that request at the port hearing.

"If we had additional resources, it would be to make sure that we have the personnel available, to provide all the levels of monitoring, patrol both on land and water and in air, and then also, investment in other forms of technology that would help us create a greater zone protection around the port."

Committee member Houston Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, agrees with Sheriff Garcia that more money is needed to provide even more protection for the Port of Houston. She joined chairman McCaul meeting the press after the hearing concluded.

Lee and McCaulMcCaul: "I think the biggest risk that I see, as a former counter terrorism official, is the access of these smaller boats in the ship channel, and the damage, because that's their playbook. They take a small vessel, a little dingy. They go into the tanker, and they blow it up."

Jackson Lee:  "I'd like to add to what the chairman said. There is the individual boat, but there's also the cargo that can detonate once it arrives at its destination. It could be the single actor, the seaman. And I think if we are a model for the nation, we have to able to have the monies to keep up our level of technology, on both the issue dealing with the small boats, funding the sheriff and his effort and as well, detailing people who are coming in and looking at the cargo as it comes in."

The lawmakers added that despite the funding issues facing Washington, they have an obligation under the constitution to provide for a common defense, and the investment for protecting the Port of Houston needs to be made.

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