Friday, July 13, 2007

How Secure Are We?

From this article in the July 13, 2007 edition of the Washington Post, emphases mine:
Bomb Squads Are Left Lacking
Multiple Attacks Would Reveal Equipment Gaps

Many local bomb squads in the Washington area are under-equipped to respond to the kind of simultaneous attacks being attempted by terrorists around the world, most recently in London, officials say.

None of the eight local and state bomb squads in the region is top-rated under the classification of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to the local officials. The region has asked the Department of Homeland Security for $8 million to bring them to the highest level.

Some officials said the lack of top-level status isn't critical. In an emergency, local squads would get help from explosives experts from the area's military bases or federal agencies including the FBI and U.S. Capitol Police, they said.

But some first responders worry that federal agencies might be tied up with their own responsibilities during a crisis or could face such complications as gridlocked traffic, particularly if there is an attack in the suburbs.

"We don't want to create a false sense of security for residents," said Keith Brower, head of the bomb-squad committee of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. "The bomb squads don't have what they need to handle multiple events or provide the top-line services we need in this day and age."


Mike Heimbach, who heads the counterterrorism division at the FBI's Washington field office, said he is "pretty comfortable" that the region could handle such simultaneous attacks because of the cooperation between federal, state and local agencies. But, he said, the local bomb squads believe they need better tools because the area is such a likely target.

"Let's face it: The nation's capital being high on al-Qaeda's radar, we should have the best of the best," he said.

The $8 million request to upgrade the bomb squads is part of the D.C. area's yearly application for a major Homeland Security anti-terrorism grant. The region has asked for a total of $140 million.

According to one official briefed on the process, Homeland Security is expected to announce this month that the region will get about $56 million. It's not clear how much would go to the bomb squads.

The upgrade "is extremely important. That's underscored by the recent events in the United Kingdom," said Robert P. Crouch, the top Virginia homeland security official, who manages the national capital area grant along with his Maryland and D.C. counterparts.

The foiled U.K. plot involved two cars in London rigged with propane canisters and nails, plus a subsequent attack on an airport terminal in Glasgow, Scotland.


Just last year, two U.S. citizens were charged in Atlanta with plotting attacks against targets including a fuel storage depot off Interstate 95 in Northern Virginia.
Read the entire article.

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