Terror threats at chemical plants underestimated

Government has failed to inspect facilities considered particularly vulnerable
Associated Press
Jul 31, 2014

 

The government is underestimating the threat of a chemical attack on America's densely populated cities and has failed to inspect virtually all of the chemical facilities that it considers particularly vulnerable to terrorists, congressional investigators say.

The yearlong investigation by Republican staff on the Senate Homeland Security Committee paints a portrait of inspection delays, government errors in risk assessment and industry loopholes in a $595 million terror prevention program passed by Congress in 2006.

Coming a year after a massive explosion at a West, Texas, fertilizer plant, the report points to threats from the release of toxic and flammable chemicals.

Roughly half of the 4,011 high-risk facilities on the Homeland Security Department watch list are in 10 states: California, Texas, Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York, North Carolina, Florida, Michigan and New Jersey.

Committee investigators have indicated that larger metropolitan regions such as Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and Philadelphia might be more vulnerable to a chemical attack. The report notes that rural accidents like the West, Texas, plant explosion "pale in comparison with the consequences of releasing large quantities of toxic gas into a densely populated city."

The U.S. effort is "a broken program that is not making us measurably safer against the threat of a terrorist attack," states the report commissioned by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.

It said widespread problems have left many of the nation's riskiest chemical facilities "effectively unregulated."

"Today - eight years later - there is little, if any, evidence to show that the more than half a billion dollars DHS has spent created an effective chemical security regulatory program," Coburn said.

The report relies in part on internal DHS documents, including a terror program assessment completed late last year that hasn't been released, and a federal database of higher-risk facilities restricted to the public.

The study was shared with the committee's Democratic chairman, Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware, who concurred with the main findings.

Acting swiftly to address problems in the program, the Senate committee on Wednesday approved legislation to give the Department of Homeland Security more funding stability to step up its monitoring and set guidelines for chemical facilities to undertake some security measures. Currently, funding for the program is authorized by Congress from year to year.

The legislation, which now goes to the full Senate, would authorize money for the program over a four-year period. It would also allow some of the lower-risk chemical facilities in the anti-terror program to self-certify that it had met DHS guidelines as the department worked to reduce inspection backlogs for those it considered to be at the highest risk of a chemical terrorist attack.

"These facilities, and the chemicals they hold, could pose significant risks to our communities if they were exploited by those who seek to do us harm," Carper said. He added that the legislation "should go a long way in making it better and more efficient."

DHS spokesman S.Y. Lee noted that the department has stepped up monitoring efforts, having approved security plans for 750 facilities in the last two years. DHS officials have called on Congress to authorize the program over multiple years so the government and chemical companies can better plan for longer-range security.

"The Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards program is an important part of our nation's counterterrorism efforts," Lee said, adding that DHS is committed "to build on the progress it has made."

The report said that as of June 30, DHS had failed to conduct security compliance inspections on 3,972 chemical facilities, or 99 percent of the 4,011 facilities initially considered at a higher risk for terrorism. Many of these facilities are chemical manufacturers; they also include farm supply retailers or fertilizer distribution warehouses.

DHS considers a chemical facility "higher risk" based on the amount of toxic or flammable chemicals on site, such as chlorine, a corrosive, or ammonium nitrate, which can be used to make explosives.

Final rankings, on a tier of one to four, are determined based on additional information provided to the government.

The committee found that roughly 3,111 of the facilities had yet to have security plans approved despite statements to DHS officials that they would be done. Investigators said it could take years for DHS to reduce the backlog.

The report also cites a DHS-commissioned study completed late last year that raised concerns the list of 4,011 higher-risk facilities was not accurate, in some cases relying on outdated data or treating densely populated areas as lower threats due to coding errors.

Among other findings, the report points to industry loopholes. DHS grants exemptions to a number of industries, including water and wastewater treatment, which use high amounts of chlorine, a toxic chemical. While the program regulates ammonium nitrate, it does not regulate 12 other chemicals that can also be used to make explosives.

 

Comments

sugar

When the POTUS backs terrorists any terror attack is Underestimated.

Contango

In the event of a terrorist attack, Pres. Obama would just perform a unilateral ceasefire and hope for the best.

pntbutterandjelly

Homeland Security is another example of those darn "big government" programs the Republicans like to complain about.

arnmcrmn

If you read the article, which clearly you didn't, this study and investigation was performed by and spearheaded by Republicans. If you want something done, just ask a Republican.

The Big Dog's back

So what are the Repubs doing about it? More funding? More people? What?

Contango

Re: "Homeland Security,"

Less military adventurism abroad, might make some of those "darn 'big government' programs" less necessary along with the accompanying loss of Constitutional freedoms (NDAA & Patriot Act).

SassieSuzieSez

I'm sure the POTUS will just ask all would-be terrorist groups to pretty-please be nice and not attack any of these vulnerable plants. That will surely stop any attempts to destroy America, right???

Contango

Re: "pretty-please be nice and not attack,"

Or maybe if attacked, he'll declare yet another "red line" like he did with Assad in Syria.

Donegan

Most could not even tell you why the DHS exist other than it is a agency meant to keep us safe from the boogy man. (We have a whole list of alphabet orgs already that are supposed to do that) The truth of it is there are laws passed prohibiting other agencies from over stepping the constitution on the citizens written when the government has some sense. Now there are no law naming the DHS and prohibiting it from targeting citizens. In other words just another way to side step the constitution.

The Big Dog's back

In response to the September 11 attacks, President George W. Bush announced the establishment of the Office of Homeland Security (OHS) to coordinate "homeland security" efforts. The office was headed by former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge, who assumed the title of Assistant to the President for Homeland Security. The official announcement stated:

“ The mission of the Office will be to develop and coordinate the implementation of a comprehensive national strategy to secure the United States from terrorist threats or attacks. The Office will coordinate the executive branch's efforts to detect, prepare for, prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from terrorist attacks within the United States.[11] ”
Ridge began his duties as OHS director on October 8, 2001.

The Department of Homeland Security was established on November 25, 2002, by the Homeland Security Act of 2002. It was intended to consolidate U.S. executive branch organizations related to "homeland security" into a single Cabinet agency.

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer addresses Dick Cheney (center), then Vice President of the United States, Saxby Chambliss (center right), a U.S. senator from Georgia and Michael Chertoff (far right), then United States Secretary of Homeland Security in 2005
Prior to the signing of the bill, controversy about its adoption centered on whether the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency should be incorporated in part or in whole (neither were included). The bill itself was also controversial for the presence of unrelated "riders", as well as for eliminating certain union-friendly civil service and labor protections for department employees. Without these protections, employees could be expeditiously reassigned or dismissed on grounds of security, incompetence or insubordination, and DHS would not be required to notify their union representatives.

The plan stripped 180,000 government employees of their union rights.[12] In 2002, Bush Administration officials argued that the September 11 attacks made the proposed elimination of employee protections imperative.[13]

Congress ultimately passed the Homeland Security Act of 2002 without the union-friendly measures, and President Bush signed the bill into law on November 25, 2002. It was the largest U.S. government reorganization in the 50 years since the United States Department of Defense was created.

Gee, maybe if we kept it UNION we wouldn't be having all these concerns.

Donegan

You are worried about the Union? The entire thing is unconstitutional but you worry about a union?
"Without these protections, employees could be expeditiously reassigned or dismissed on grounds of security, incompetence or insubordination, and DHS would not be required to notify their union representatives." If they do ANY of those thing they should be fired, removed, inprisoned. Besides that what happened to everyone's rights not being infringed by a overbearing gestapo that actively targets citizens?
This is a example of why people do not listen to you, You put your "Team" in front of common sense. Does the boot of a union member taste better than a non-union member Dog?

The Big Dog's back

A Gestapo tactic is when someone doesn't like you personally for your size, hair color, etc. and just fires you. So you support someone being fired without any recourse on some other person word?

Donegan

No Gestapo tactics are spying on citizens, over running their rights and killing them without due process.
Your union "rights" are way down the list. and besides that there are plenty of laws on the books protecting federal employees in intelligence and military agencies. Don't worry when you finally get what you advocate for you will have a job. No union (Those are the first thing socialist get rid of) But a mandatory job.
“United States citizenship is a privilege,Not a right." Hillary Clinton
This is the kind of madness rational people are trying to end. Citizenship is a privilege but being in a union is a right? That is insane.

CommonsenseNow

WHAT ABOUT EMP ATTACKS?
The US Department of Defense number one area of concern is the electric grid (electrical distribution for the US) to be knocked out. The most commonly accepted number to protect the grid is about $2 billion. The grid is not protected because the US government has said it is not our job; the military has said “we’re going broke, it is not our job.” The producers of electricity (we have a few hundred) have said we are happy to do it except for one thing, the only way we can afford the $2 billion to protect our grid is to raise our rates but public utility commissions have to approve any rate increase which they do not. (Isn't it interesting though we have $3.5 billion for illegals)

Now the grid is how we communicate the energy/power from the producer to the consumer. About two EMP (electric magnetic pulse) bombs would knock out our grids. When EMP bombs go boom in the air, a super electric charge is put in the air and all computers are wiped out. There is no magic here: computer hard drives are magnetic and we use magnetism to write on those drives; if I brought in a super high magnet and put it over your hard drive, it will wipe out the memory on your computer. Our whole electric grid is run by computers. The water system is run by computers (to deliver water to fountains, your home, etc). Hospitals are run by computers. Cars are run by computers. Cell phones. Tractors that ploy the field. Gas pumps. You get the picture.

Two EMP bombs - one coming in from the east coast and one coming in from the west coast (about 300-400 miles in) should be able to knock out about almost 90 percent of electricity in America, and 90 percent of Americans would be without electricity from months to years.

Should the grid go off, your lights would go off in your office building and your computer would not work. And so you would walk to your car, which would not start because the is computer in it has been cooked. When you walk home, you have no lights, the air conditioning doesn’t work. By now you need to use the bathroom, but no water comes in when you flush because the water pumps at the city level do not work anymore. By now you’re thirsty, you want to go to kitchen sink there’s no water (only the water you have in your pipes is available).

So let’s look at Iran, who this Administration wants to hold hands with and sing kumbya. The Iranians have supposedly been working on these nuclear bombs; they have all these centrifuges running and we’re letting them. And they’re going to blow up Israel (which should make a lot of libs happy). So they have been test running these bombs. As you may recall, their bombs take off, fly straight up in the air, turn over, and fly horizontal, and after a while they blow up; and so they are being reported as failures according to the American media because if you are delivering a nuclear bomb, you would not want to go off when flying horizontal but closer to the earth. Here’s the point. Everyone says it’s a failure because the bomb doesn’t come down and go off at the right height. But that is exactly the system of delivery you would want for an EMP bomb so when it goes off at horizontal, it throws off its electromagnetic charge and hits a wider area.

The Russians have done a far better job than we have of protecting their defense assets from an EMP attack. The Russians have great airplanes and hold a lot of memory in solid state and non-electronic magnet stuff. The Russians have made the most sophisticated tube structures you can buy and mounted those in lead boxes. If you take a magnet and put it next to a lead box, the tubes are not affected by EMP. American planes controlled by computers, however, will crash because there will be no controls. But the Russians will keep flying.

The Big Dog's back

Another alex jones nutbag. You know, jones was making up all these conspiracy theories when bush was President, but Libs were smarter than that to follow him. But you right wingnuts on the other hand take everything he says as gospel.

CommonsenseNow

and because you can't come up with independent thought, you don't think anyone else can. was alex jones talking about this? i don't know. because he never even entered the radar when i came up with my OWN CONCLUSIONS. Yes, some of us actually think.

CommonsenseNow

This isn't from Alex Jones, doggie. It is from the former CIA director. You really need to get a handle, man. Really. http://www.inquisitr.com/1380976...

CommonsenseNow

I actually feel sorry for you. You are such a child. This block goes here and this block goes there. You have two labels. That's it. The world is playing with at least 200. Not too late to expand your paradigm, doggie. I'm thinking you can do it.