Truckers and terrorists

An authorized leak? That’s the way it looks to me.

The ABC News story about the lack of background checks on truck drivers at the New York/New Jersey ports has all the hallmarks of an authorized leak. No doubt ABC News “obtained” the report by having a DHS flack hand it to them. The ABC spin on the story is exactly the Administration spin: there are bigger security issues at the ports that the ownership of the P&O port-operation contracts. And Fox News was obviously cued up as well, giving the story some additional right-wing, anti-union spin.

Two comments:

1. Since the report documents weaknesses in port security that a terrorist organization could use to plan its operations, it could have been properly classified. (For all we know, it was in fact classified.) It was made public because doing so served the political purposes of the incumbent administration. The BushCo attempt to criminalize any leaks that don’t serve its political purposes should be recognized for what it is: a simple power grab, not a national-security measure.

2. It’s possible that the leak will do what it was intended to do: weaken opposition to the Dubai deal by showing that there are bigger problems elsewhere. But can it really be good long-term political strategy for the Administration to make a fuss about what a lousy job it’s done on homeland security? For once, Glenn Reynolds and I agree. This is a great issue for a Democrat who knows how to make it.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com