Chicago Journal of International Law


The United States has shifted away from reactive counterterrorism law enforcement methods towards more proactive techniques to fight international terrorism. This shift is a result of the changing nature of the terrorist threat overseas, against which the US has now employed preventative diplomatic, economic, military, and legal strategies. The Container Security Initiative ("CSI") is a Bureau of Customs and Border Protection ("US Customs") program designed to prevent containerized shipping-the primary means of transporting goods in global trade-from being exploited by terrorists. CSI is an excellent illustration of contemporary evolving preventative legal strategies in the international arena. Under CSI, US Customs has entered into bilateral agreements with foreign governments to identify high-risk cargo containers and prescreen those containers for terrorist weapons at the port of departure instead of at the port of arrival. This Development addresses the changing nature of international terrorism, specifically in the context of maritime activity, and its impact on law enforcement agencies and other nontraditional antiterrorism actors such as the maritime shipping industry. The focus of this Development is on the rationales underlying the formation of CSI, its evolving status in international law, and the criticisms leveled against it. More specifically, Part III examines CSI's potential infringement upon traditional notions of sovereignty and implications for global trade.