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Melt Menace

The Arctic melt that has opened up the Northwest Passage again may be good for business, but it's bad for potential terrorism against the US.

In the past, the remote gray waters of the Alaskan Arctic saw little more than the occasional cargo barge and Eskimo whaling boat, but that's changed: There are now so many ships in the area that the Coast Guard can't keep track of them. They have no idea what these vessels are carrying or who is on them.

On a single day in August, 95 ships were detected between Prudhoe Bay and Wainwright off America's least defended coastline. The possibility that drug dealers, arms merchants and terrorists could begin to explore transport routes near America's largest oil fields has prompted the U.S. military to begin planning for a much larger military presence in the Arctic in the future than we have right now.

Does the Navy have the ability to go up and operate a number of ships, a number of aircraft, for a sustained period of time in this environment, where it's cold, it's got bad weather, it's got a lot of ice, and it's really far away from everything that supports you? In the October 19th Los Angeles Times, Kim Murphy quotes former Navy Commander Christopher Gray as saying, "What we found is that the answer is, not really."

Murphy quotes Coast Guard commander Admiral Thomas P. Ostebo as saying, "There's probably 1,500 people out there, It's kind of spinning a little bit out of control."

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