Thursday, December 28, 2006

Port Security - A Shell Game?

{{de1=Ungesetzlicher Hütchenspieler in Stockh...Image via Wikipedia

Since the Middle Ages, the “shell game” has been played on and near the piers and docks of seaports. In a classic shell game, the con artist uses three walnut shell halves and a small, pea-sized ball. After placing the ball under one of the shells, the con artist uses wide circular motions with his or her arms and hands to shuffle the shells on the game surface. The intended victim or mark is invited to guess which shell covers the ball and is encouraged to bet on the outcome. The con artist moves slowly in shuffling the shells, making potential bets seem certain. But, the con artist can easily manipulate the ball by palming it or placing it between his fingers rather than under a shell. The pay-off in this scam comes from encouraging the sucker bet. When the mark bets—she or he loses. Thus, the only way to win the shell game is to avoid playing.Today, a new and deadly form of the shell game using intermodal containers as shells and terrorists’ weapons of mass destruction (WMD) as the ball is possible. In order for this shell game to pay off for its hustlers, the sleight of hand—manifested in falsified bills of lading and shipping records or by the sheer numbers of containers—hides ties to the terrorists and their WMD cargo. When the illusion of normalcy is maintained, a terrorist act can occur. Our question is, “Can playing this new shell game be avoided?”
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