WASHINGTON — International trade attorney John Pelligrini heard the rumor from a client: U.S. ports will be closed out of heightened security if there’s a war with Iraq.

This story first appeared in the March 18, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“This company is pretty sophisticated,” Pelligrini said of the client.

However, the U.S. Customs Service said this tip is just a rumor circulating on the Internet as an agency memo that looks real. The fake memo says ports would be closed for two to five days.

“Bogus, bogus, bogus,” a Customs spokesman said, while not ruling out U.S. ports ever being closed if a threat does arise. “This rumor is going around among corporate executives.”

It comes as Customs officials are busy deploying various cargo-security initiatives designed to keep terrorist activity away from U.S. shores. About half of the $1.2 trillion in goods imported into the U.S. annually arrives by ocean carrier.

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