Graham calls Charleston port security project vital

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NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. - Project Seahawk, a port security effort developed in South Carolina, is vital to waging the war on terrorism and a model for ports around the nation, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Monday.

Graham, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Gov. Mark Sanford and other leaders had a private briefing on the project during a visit to the Project Seahawk headquarters at the old Charleston Navy Base.

Seahawk, created in 2003 in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, brings together representatives of state, federal and local law enforcement agencies who meet each day in a command center to share and compare information on harbor activity.

The center includes a giant video wall with live cameras focused on, among other things, Charleston Harbor, area highways, the Ravenel Bridge linking Charleston and Mount Pleasant and marsh areas near the building.

Whether it's a radiological shipment, a ship with a suspicious crewman or trucking inspections, all agencies are aware of what is happening. That avoids turf fights which can hamper law enforcement, officials say.

The briefing provided an "impressive demonstration" of the capabilities of the program, Napolitano said.

Charleston, Graham said, "is one of the most strategic locations in the United States in the war on terror" with about 45 percent of materials shipped by sea to Iraq and Afghanistan passing through the area.

The federal Department of Justice was the lead agency on the project when it was created but Seahawk moves to the Department of Homeland Security on October 1.

However, an estimated $880,000 appropriation to help finance local participation will not follow the program. Graham said he will work to make sure the money is available so the Charleston program continues and can be replicated elsewhere.

"The local component makes it what it is," he said. "It's imperative when we duplicate this project that we have local agencies in the mix."

While Sanford was briefed on the project, the Republican governor, embroiled in the fallout from the revelation he had an affair with a woman from Argentina, did not meet with reporters afterward.


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