March 01, 2006

CNN Disappoints Me

I just finished watching a substantial piece of an interview of Howard Dean by Wolf Blitzer on a show called The Situation Room that airs on CNN in the afternoon. The topic, not surprisingly, was port security, and rarely have I seen a reporter give someone with such a clearly and publicly defined bias a free pass like this one. Dean rolled out the usual pseudo-fact that only 5% of shipping gets inspected, and Blitzer made no effort to clarify anything whatsoever.

Want to know how shipping inspection actually works? Roughly 98% of shipping gets scanned. Suspicious items undergo further and more detailed scanning in order to detect specific isotopes found within materials usable for terrorist aims. If those isotopes are present, the suspicious article or articles are searched by hand. Our ever popular 5% label applies to the number of containers that actually get hand searched, which would include inspections of suspicious items as described above as well as random searches.

Someone needs to tell me how the use of this statistic in the manner of Dean and many others can be called anything but a carefully worded lie. Moreover, is it not the responsibility of the news media to demand clarification and more extensive information? I am not surprised so few Americans vote. It requires an obsession to obtain anything resembling truth from politicians and the news media alike, and most people simply do not have the time to devote to such an endeavor.

Posted by Andy at March 1, 2006 05:15 PM to the Politics category

If you had been watching the fox news report of the same issue, you would realize that the device used in the scanning process has a margin of error over 40%

Strangely enough, the majority of suspect items that actually do receive any attention are reported by longshoreman, not port security.

It's obviously a flawed system. I do disagree with CNN's Wolf Blitzer allowing a political figure to use his media to disperse substandard political word-warfare that is obviously aimed at discrediting the current powers that be.

I too long for a day when the news channels begin offering a neutral and efficient investigation of current issues.

Posted by: Kevin at March 1, 2006 07:59 PM

Can you send me a link that confirms your information? What you're saying here actually affirms my problems with the way we get information. I have not heard the data you have laid out here, and worse yet, I cannot entirely believe it without your source, not because you'd lie about it, but because there are so many disparate sources that may or may not be believable.

I left out of this post that much if not most of port security actually happens outside of actual ports. Cargo is checked before shipping, must then clear the Coast Guard, and then gets checked again on our end. That says nothing of systems beyond our notice for reasons of national security.

Though my issue today is with the dissemination of information to the American public, I can also say that I feel reasonably secure with our ports, and indeed regarding our day to day safety as well. We as a nation can build higher and higher walls to keep out all threats to our security, but walls only do so much because someone always has a bigger catapult.

The vast majority of our security lies with our intelligence networks, which themselves rely on steady alliances with Middle Eastern countries despite the moral ambiguity present in those countries. Nixing a deal with the UAE seems an awful lot like shooting ourselves in the foot so that we might bandage an arm. At the same time, I welcome the debate, because we all deserve the best security our government can offer within a framework of reasonable expenditures.

Posted by: Andy at March 1, 2006 10:16 PM

i'm gonna go ahead there and agree with kevin- since most things are so ambiguous and we're lied to pretty much all the time, i'd err on the side of safety and say no to selling our ports. that's all.
good job, kevin.

Posted by: heather at March 4, 2006 01:07 AM
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