Border Security: Investigators Transported Radioactive Sources	 
Across Our Nation's Borders at Two Locations (05-JUL-06,	 
GAO-06-939T).							 
                                                                 
Given today's unprecedented terrorism threat environment and the 
resulting widespread congressional and public interest in the	 
security of our nation's borders, GAO conducted an investigation 
testing whether radioactive sources could be smuggled across U.S.
borders. Most travelers enter the United States through the	 
nation's 154 land border ports of entry. Department of Homeland  
Security U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspectors at  
ports of entry are responsible for the primary inspection of	 
travelers to determine their admissibility into the United States
and to enforce laws related to preventing the entry of		 
contraband, such as drugs and weapons of mass destruction. GAO's 
testimony provides the results of undercover tests made by its	 
investigators to determine whether monitors at U.S. ports of	 
entry detect radioactive sources in vehicles attempting to enter 
the United States. GAO also provides observations regarding the  
procedures that CBP inspectors followed during its investigation.
GAO has also issued a report on the results of this investigation
(GAO-06-545R).							 
-------------------------Indexing Terms------------------------- 
REPORTNUM:   GAO-06-939T					        
    ACCNO:   A56259						        
  TITLE:     Border Security: Investigators Transported Radioactive   
Sources Across Our Nation's Borders at Two Locations		 
     DATE:   07/05/2006 
  SUBJECT:   Antiterrorism					 
	     Border security					 
	     Dirty bombs					 
	     Forgery						 
	     Hazardous substances				 
	     Homeland security					 
	     Inspection 					 
	     Radiation monitoring				 
	     Radioactive materials				 
	     Terrorism						 
	     Counterfeiting					 
	     Radiation detection				 

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GAO-06-939T

     

     * Summary
     * Documentation Was Produced to Support Undercover Investigati
     * With Ease, Investigators Purchased, Received, and Transporte
     * Two Teams of Investigators Conducted Simultaneous Crossings
          * Northern Border Crossing
     * Southern Border Crossing
     * Corrective Action Briefings
     * Contacts and Acknowledgments
          * Order by Mail or Phone

Testimony

Before the Subcommittee on International Terrorism and Nonproliferation,
Committee on International Relations,

House of Representatives

United States Government Accountability Office

GAO

For Release on Delivery Expected at 9:00 a.m. PDT

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

BORDERSECURITY

Investigators Transported Radioactive Sources Across Our Nation's Borders
at Two Locations

Statement of Gregory D. Kutz, Managing Director

Forensic Audits and Special Investigations

Border Security Border Security Border Security Border Security Border
Security Border Security Border Security Border Security

GAO-06-939T

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:

Thank you for the opportunity to discuss our investigation of potential
security weaknesses associated with the installation of radiation
detection equipment at U.S. ports of entry. To address the threat of dirty
bombs and other nuclear material, the federal government has programs in
place that regulate the transportation of radioactive sources and to
prevent illegal transport of radioactive sources across our nation's
borders. The Department of Homeland Security through the U.S. Customs and
Border Protection (CBP) uses radiation detection equipment at ports of
entry to prevent such illicit entry of radioactive sources. The goal of
CBP's inspection program is to "...thwart the operations of terrorist
organizations by detecting, disrupting, and preventing the cross-border
travel of terrorists, terrorist funding, and terrorist implements,
including Weapons of Mass Destruction and their precursors." Deploying
radiation detection equipment is part of CBP's strategy for thwarting
radiological terrorism and CBP is using a range of such equipment to meet
its goal of screening all cargo, vehicles, and individuals coming into the
United States.

Most travelers enter the United States through the nation's 154 land
border ports of entry. CBP inspectors at ports of entry are responsible
for the primary inspection of travelers to determine their admissibility
into the United States and to enforce laws related to preventing the entry
of contraband, such as drugs and weapons of mass destruction.

Our investigation was conducted as a result of widespread congressional
and public interest in the security of our nation's borders, given today's
unprecedented terrorism threat environment. Our investigation was
conducted under the premise that given today's security environment, our
nation's borders must be protected from the smuggling of radioactive
sources by terrorists.

This testimony will provide the results of our work related to testing
whether the radiation portal monitors installed at the U.S. ports of entry
would detect radioactive sources transported in vehicles attempting to
enter the United States. We will also provide our observations regarding
the procedures that CBP inspectors followed when the radiation portal
monitors detected such material. In addition, at the request of the
Chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Committee
on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, we issued in March 2006 a
detailed report with corrective action briefings to CBP and the Nuclear
Regulatory Commission (NRC) on the results of our undercover border
crossing tests.1

We selected two land ports of entry that had radiation portal monitors
installed: one at the U.S.-Canadian border and one at the U.S.-Mexican
border. Radiation portal monitors are large pieces of stationary equipment
that CBP uses as part of its overall strategy to thwart radiological
terrorism by detecting the presence of radioactive sources by screening
people, vehicles, and cargo as they pass through ports of entry. In order
to safely plan and execute our undercover operation, several of our
investigators attended training at the National Institute of Standards and
Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Our investigators received
training on the safe handling, storage, and transport of radioactive
sources.

When considering the type of radioactive sources to use in our undercover
operation, we decided to use one of the most common radioisotopes used in
industry for its strong radioactivity and also used in medical therapy to
treat cancer. After consulting with an outside expert, we used an amount
of radioactive sources that we determined was sufficient to manufacture a
dirty bomb.2 A dirty bomb would most likely result in small radiation
exposures and would typically not contain enough radiation to kill people
or cause severe illnesses. However, by scattering the radioactive
material, the dirty bomb has the effect of contaminating an area. The
extent of local contamination depends on several factors, including the
size of the explosive, the amount and type of radioactive material used,
and weather conditions. While there could be an increase in the cancer
risk among those exposed to radiation from a dirty bomb, the more
significant effect of a dirty bomb could be the closing of contaminated
areas. The direct costs of cleanup and the indirect losses in trade and
business in the contaminated areas could be large. Hence, dirty bombs are
generally considered to be weapons of mass disruption instead of weapons
of mass destruction.

1GAO, Border Security: Investigators Successfully Transported Radioactive
Sources Across Our Nation's Borders at Selected Locations, GAO-06-545R
(Washington, D.C.: Mar. 28, 2006).

2According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a dirty bomb
is a mix of explosives, such as dynamite, with radioactive powder or
pellets. When the dynamite or other explosives are set off, the blast
carries radioactive material into the surrounding area.

As part of our investigation, we purchased a small quantity of the
radioactive sources from a commercial source by posing as an employee of a
fictitious company. This was to demonstrate that anyone can purchase small
quantities of radioactive sources for stockpiling because suppliers are
not required to exercise due diligence to determine whether the buyer has
a legitimate use for the radioactive sources and suppliers are not
required to ask the buyer to produce an NRC document when making purchases
in small quantities. We then deployed two teams of investigators to the
field to make simultaneous border crossings at the northern and southern
borders in an attempt to transport radioactive sources into the United
States.

While making our simultaneous crossings, we focused our investigation on
whether the radiation portal monitors would detect the radioactive sources
we carried and whether CBP inspectors exercised due diligence to determine
the authenticity of paperwork presented by individuals attempting to
transport radioactive sources across our borders. Although we offer
observations on the procedures that CBP inspectors followed for our two
border crossings, we did not evaluate the adequacy of the design or
effectiveness of those procedures. Our investigation also tested whether
an NRC document could be counterfeited using data easily accessible and
available to the public. We conducted our investigation from July 2005
through December 2005 in accordance with quality standards for
investigations as set forth by the President's Council on Integrity and
Efficiency.

                                    Summary

For the purposes of this undercover investigation, we purchased a small
amount of radioactive sources and one container used to store and
transport the material from a commercial source over the telephone. One of
our investigators, posing as an employee of a fictitious company located
in Washington, D.C., stated that the purpose of his purchase was to use
the radioactive sources to calibrate personal radiation detection pagers.
The purchase was not challenged because suppliers are not required to
determine whether a buyer has a legitimate use for the radioactive
sources, nor are suppliers required to ask the buyer to produce an NRC
document when making purchases in small quantities.

The radiation portal monitors properly signaled the presence of
radioactive material when our two teams of investigators conducted
simultaneous border crossings. Our investigators' vehicles were inspected
in accordance with most of the CBP policy at both the northern and
southern borders. However, our investigators, using counterfeit documents,
were able to enter the United States with enough radioactive sources in
the trunks of their vehicles to make two dirty bombs. Specifically, they
were able to successfully represent themselves as employees of a
fictitious company and present a counterfeit bill of lading and a
counterfeit NRC document during the secondary inspections at both
locations. The CBP inspectors never questioned the authenticity of the
investigators' counterfeit bill of lading or the counterfeit NRC document
authorizing them to receive, acquire, possess, and transfer radioactive
sources.

         Documentation Was Produced to Support Undercover Investigation

As part of our undercover investigation, we produced counterfeit documents
before sending our two teams of investigators out to the field. We found
two NRC documents and a few examples of the documents by searching the
Internet.3 We subsequently used commercial, off-the-shelf computer
software to produce two counterfeit NRC documents authorizing the
individual to receive, acquire, possess, and transfer radioactive sources.

To support our investigators' purported reason for having radioactive
sources in their possession when making their simultaneous border
crossings, a GAO graphic artist designed a logo for our fictitious company
and produced a bill of lading using computer software.

With Ease, Investigators Purchased, Received, and Transported Radioactive
                          Sources Across Both Borders

Our two teams of investigators each transported an amount of radioactive
sources sufficient to manufacture a dirty bomb when making their recent,
simultaneous border crossings. In support of our earlier work, we had
obtained an NRC document and had purchased radioactive sources as well as
two containers to store and transport the material.

For the purposes of this undercover investigation, we purchased a small
amount of radioactive sources and one container for storing and
transporting the material from a commercial source over the telephone. One
of our investigators, posing as an employee of a fictitious company,
stated that the purpose of his purchase was to use the radioactive sources
to calibrate personal radiation detectors. Suppliers are not required to
exercise any due diligence in determining whether the buyer has a
legitimate use for the radioactive sources, nor are suppliers required to
ask the buyer to produce an NRC document when making purchases in small
quantities. The amount of radioactive sources our investigator sought to
purchase did not require an NRC document. The company mailed the
radioactive sources to an address in Washington, D.C.

3None of these documents were available on NRC's Web site.

Two Teams of Investigators Conducted Simultaneous Crossings at the U.S.-Canadian
                         Border and U.S.-Mexican Border

Northern Border Crossing

On December 14, 2005, our investigators placed two containers of
radioactive sources into the trunk of their rental vehicle. Our
investigators - acting in an undercover capacity - drove to an official
port of entry between Canada and the United States. They also had in their
possession a counterfeit bill of lading in the name of a fictitious
company and a counterfeit NRC document.

At the primary checkpoint, our investigators were signaled to drive
through the radiation portal monitors and to meet the CBP inspector at the
booth for their primary inspection. As our investigators drove past the
radiation portal monitors and approached the primary checkpoint booth,
they observed the CBP inspector look down and reach to his right side of
his booth. Our investigators assumed that the radiation portal monitors
had activated and signaled the presence of radioactive sources. The CBP
inspector asked our investigators for identification and asked them where
they lived. One of our investigators on the two-man undercover team handed
the CBP inspector both of their passports and told him that he lived in
Maryland while the second investigator told the CBP inspector that he
lived in Virginia.

The CBP inspector also asked our investigators to identify what they were
transporting in their vehicle. One of our investigators told the CBP
inspector that they were transporting specialized equipment back to the
United States. A second CBP inspector, who had come over to assist the
first inspector, asked what else our investigators were transporting. One
of our investigators told the CBP inspectors that they were transporting
radioactive sources for the specialized equipment. The CBP inspector in
the primary checkpoint booth appeared to be writing down the information.
Our investigators were then directed to park in a secondary inspection
zone, while the CBP inspector conducted further inspections of the
vehicle.

During the secondary inspection, our investigators told the CBP inspector
that they had an NRC document and a bill of lading for the radioactive
sources. The CBP inspector asked if he could make copies of our
investigators' counterfeit bill of lading on letterhead stationery as well
as their counterfeit NRC document. Although the CBP inspector took the
documents to the copier, our investigators did not observe him retrieving
any copies from the copier.

Our investigators watched the CBP inspector use a handheld Radiation
Isotope Identifier Device (RIID), which he said is used to identify the
source of radioactive sources, to examine the investigators' vehicle. He
told our investigators that he had to perform additional inspections.
After determining that the investigators were not transporting additional
sources of radiation, the CBP inspector made copies of our investigators'
drivers' licenses, returned their drivers' licenses to them, and our
investigators were then allowed to enter the United States. At no time did
the CBP inspector question the validity of the counterfeit bill of lading
or the counterfeit NRC document.

                            Southern Border Crossing

On December 14, 2005, our investigators placed two containers of
radioactive sources into the trunk of their vehicle. Our investigators
drove to an official port of entry at the southern border. They also had
in their possession a counterfeit bill of lading in the name of a
fictitious company and a counterfeit NRC document.

At the primary checkpoint, our two-person undercover team was signaled by
means of a traffic light signal to drive through the radiation portal
monitors and stopped at the primary checkpoint for their primary
inspection. As our investigators drove past the portal monitors and
approached the primary checkpoint, they observed that the CBP inspector
remained in the primary checkpoint for several moments prior to
approaching our investigators' vehicle. Our investigators assumed that the
radiation portal monitors had activated and signaled the presence of
radioactive sources.

The CBP inspector asked our investigators for identification and asked
them if they were American citizens. Our investigators told the CBP
inspector that they were both American citizens and handed him their
state-issued drivers' licenses. The CBP inspector also asked our
investigators about the purpose of their trip to Mexico and asked whether
they were bringing anything into the United States from Mexico. Our
investigators told the CBP inspector that they were returning from a
business trip in Mexico and were not bringing anything into the United
States from Mexico.

While our investigators remained inside their vehicle, the CBP inspector
used what appeared to be a RIID to scan the outside of the vehicle. One of
our investigators told him that they were transporting specialized
equipment. The CBP inspector asked one of our investigators to open the
trunk of the rental vehicle and to show him the specialized equipment. Our
investigator told the CBP inspector that they were transporting
radioactive sources in addition to the specialized equipment. The primary
CBP inspector then directed our investigators to park in a secondary
inspection zone for further inspection.

During the secondary inspection, the CBP inspector said he needed to
verify the type of material our investigators were transporting, and
another CBP inspector approached with what appeared to be a RIID to scan
the cardboard boxes where the radioactive sources was placed. The
instrumentation confirmed the presence of radioactive sources.

When asked again about the purpose of their visit to Mexico, one of our
investigators told the CBP inspector that they had used the radioactive
sources in a demonstration designed to secure additional business for
their company. The CBP inspector asked for paperwork authorizing them to
transport the equipment to Mexico. One of our investigators provided the
counterfeit bill of lading on letterhead stationery, as well as their
counterfeit NRC document. The CBP inspector took the paperwork provided by
our investigators and walked into the CBP station. He returned several
minutes later and returned the paperwork. At no time did the CBP inspector
question the validity of the counterfeit bill of lading or the counterfeit
NRC document.

                          Corrective Action Briefings

We conducted corrective action briefings with CBP and NRC officials
shortly after completing our undercover operations. On December 21, 2005,
we briefed CBP officials about the results of our border crossing tests.
CBP officials agreed to work with the NRC and CBP's Laboratories and
Scientific Services to come up with a way to verify the authenticity of
NRC materials documents.

We conducted two corrective action briefings with NRC officials on January
12 and January 24, 2006, about the results of our border crossing tests.
NRC officials disagreed with the amount of radioactive material we
determined was needed to produce a dirty bomb, noting that NRC's "concern
threshold" is significantly higher. We continue to believe that our
purchase of radioactive sources and our ability to counterfeit an NRC
document are matters that NRC should address. We could have purchased all
of the radioactive sources used in our two undercover border crossings by
making multiple purchases from different suppliers, using similarly
convincing cover stories, using false identities, and had all of the
radioactive sources conveniently shipped to our nation's capital.

Further, we believe that the amount of radioactive sources that we were
able to transport into the United States during our operation would be
sufficient to produce two dirty bombs, which could be used as weapons of
mass disruption. Finally, NRC officials told us that they are aware of the
potential problems of counterfeiting documents and that they are working
to resolve these issues.

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, this concludes my statement.
I would be pleased to answer any questions that you or other members of
the Subcommittee may have at this time.

                          Contacts and Acknowledgments

For further information about this testimony, please contact Gregory D.
Kutz at (202) 512-7455 or [email protected] . Contact points for our Offices
of Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found on the last
page of this testimony.

(192216)

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Highlights of GAO-06-939T , testimony before the Subcommittee on
International Terrorism and Nonproliferation, Committee on International
Relations, House of Representatives

July 5, 2006

BORDER SECURITY

Investigators Transported Radioactive Sources Across Our Nation's Borders
at Two Locations

Given today's unprecedented terrorism threat environment and the resulting
widespread congressional and public interest in the security of our
nation's borders, GAO conducted an investigation testing whether
radioactive sources could be smuggled across U.S. borders.

Most travelers enter the United States through the nation's 154 land
border ports of entry. Department of Homeland Security U.S. Customs and
Border Protection (CBP) inspectors at ports of entry are responsible for
the primary inspection of travelers to determine their admissibility into
the United States and to enforce laws related to preventing the entry of
contraband, such as drugs and weapons of mass destruction.

GAO's testimony provides the results of undercover tests made by its
investigators to determine whether monitors at U.S. ports of entry detect
radioactive sources in vehicles attempting to enter the United States. GAO
also provides observations regarding the procedures that CBP inspectors
followed during its investigation.

GAO has also issued a report on the results of this investigation
(GAO-06-545R).

For the purposes of this undercover investigation, GAO purchased a small
amount of radioactive sources and one secure container used to safely
store and transport the material from a commercial source over the
telephone. One of GAO's investigators, posing as an employee of a
fictitious company located in Washington, D.C., stated that the purpose of
his purchase was to use the radioactive sources to calibrate personal
radiation detection pagers. The purchase was not challenged because
suppliers are not required to determine whether prospective buyers have
legitimate uses for radioactive sources, nor are suppliers required to ask
a buyer to produce an NRC document when purchasing in small quantities.
The amount of radioactive sources GAO's investigator sought to purchase
did not require an NRC document. Subsequently, the company mailed the
radioactive sources to an address in Washington, D.C.

The radiation portal monitors properly signaled the presence of
radioactive material when our two teams of investigators conducted
simultaneous border crossings. Our investigators' vehicles were inspected
in accordance with most of the CBP policy at both the northern and
southern borders. However, GAO's investigators, using counterfeit
documents, were able to enter the United States with enough radioactive
sources in the trunks of their vehicles to make two dirty bombs. According
to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a dirty bomb is a mix
of explosives, such as dynamite, with radioactive powder or pellets. When
the dynamite or other explosives are set off, the blast carries
radioactive material into the surrounding area. The direct costs of
cleanup and the indirect losses in trade and business in the contaminated
areas could be large. Hence, dirty bombs are generally considered to be
weapons of mass disruption instead of weapons of mass destruction. GAO
investigators were able to successfully represent themselves as employees
of a fictitious company present a counterfeit bill of lading and a
counterfeit NRC document during the secondary inspections at both
locations. The CBP inspectors never questioned the authenticity of the
investigators' counterfeit bill of lading or the counterfeit NRC document
authorizing them to receive, acquire, possess, and transfer radioactive
sources.
*** End of document. ***