The most controversial provision in the legislation requires the radiation scanning of cargo containers in more than 600 ports from which ships leave for the U.S. The White House, and other critics, say that the technology isn't there, that the requirement could disrupt trade and that current procedures including manifest inspections at foreign ports and radiation monitoring in U.S. ports are working well.
Supporters argue that the unthinkable devastation from the detonation of a nuclear device in an American port makes it imperative to scan cargo before it reaches U.S. shores. As a compromise, it was agreed that the Homeland Security secretary can extend the five-year deadline for 100 percent scanning in two-year increments if necessary.
The White House was also unhappy with a provision that requires total amounts requested and appropriated for the intelligence community to be made public.
There was more agreement on changing the formula to ensure that more federal security grants go to high-risk states and cities. The current formula makes sure that every lawmaker, even those representing rural areas relatively safe from terrorism, get a chunk of the federal grants. Under the new formula a larger percentage of grants will go to high-risk urban areas.
The bill also establishes a new grant program to ensure that local, state and federal officials can communicate with each other and approves $4 billion over four years for rail, transit and bus security.
It strengthens security measures for the Visa Waiver Program, which allows travelers from select countries to visit the United States without visas.
The massive legislation also contains language requiring the president to confirm that Pakistan is making progress in combatting al-Qaida and Taliban elements within its borders before the United States provides aid to the country.
Hamilton said that one shortcoming of the bill is that it fails to carry out the commission's recommendation that Congress streamline its own overlapping setup for monitoring intelligence and homeland security matters. "I think congressional oversight still remains a weakness in our homeland security," he said.
The bill is H.R. 1
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