Warning

 

Close

Confirm Action

Are you sure you wish to do this?

Confirm Cancel
Member Login
Posted: 3/17/2002 7:29:22 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 3/17/2002 7:33:42 AM EDT by warlord]
Our friend John Magaw formerly head of the ATF is back. ================================================================= Los Angeles Times: Experts Question 'Trade-Offs' in U.S. Security [url]http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-031702safer.story[/url] Experts Question 'Trade-Offs' in U.S. Security Terrorism: A mix of safety measures is said to focus too much on aviation, and too little on other likely targets. By RICHARD T. COOPER and RICARDO ALONZO-ZALDIVAR Times Staff Writers March 17 2002 WASHINGTON -- Six months after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, security experts worry that the nationwide effort to make Americans safer has grown seriously unbalanced, with huge resources allocated to some threats and comparatively little to potentially greater dangers. The nation, according to this view, has failed to set priorities--to accept lesser risks in order to avoid greater ones. In the language of emergency medicine, it has forgotten the practice of triage. "We are not consciously making trade-offs," domestic security specialist Frank Hoffman said last week. What's missing, he said, is overall "national risk assessment." In 10 years, Hoffman said, the country may wish it had hired 10,000 more security personnel for nuclear power plants and added 10,000 specialists to deal with biochemical threats, instead of putting all 40,000 airport screeners on the federal payroll. It may rue the day when it embarked upon a massive effort to tighten airline security, but let border inspectors generally check only a fraction of the 50,000-plus cargo containers entering the United States every day. After Sept. 11, the pressure to do something visible--and to do it quickly, even hastily--proved irresistible. "In the first six months, the administration has been influenced by two emotional factors: fear and anger," said William H. Webster, who has headed both the FBI and the CIA. "Both of them were justified. Both demanded action sooner rather than later." Webster gives President Bush high marks on both counts, saying he assuaged the nation's anxiety and channeled its anger into measured responses. Further, each of the measures already adopted deals with a serious problem and is justifiable when considered alone. The ragged army of airport screeners will almost certainly meet higher standards than before. Baggage will be checked more thoroughly. Laboratories are already more aware of the need to protect sensitive materials. So are private shipping companies. From coast to coast, thousands of local fire and rescue teams are preparing to be retrained and reequipped to handle biochemical and other terrorist attacks. -- continued --
Link Posted: 3/17/2002 7:30:17 AM EDT
Moreover, simply by erecting more obstacles, the welter of new procedures forces would-be attackers to expand their efforts, thus increasing the chances they will betray themselves or fail. Nonetheless, most of the initiatives now in train have been adopted with almost no comprehensive weighing of comparative costs and benefits. Federal officials plucked many initiatives from existing security studies. Some address what experts consider relatively moderate, self-contained problems, while potentially catastrophic threats get lesser responses. "Although the United States government has done a great deal to prevent and protect against international terrorism, and to be prepared to respond to it if it comes, we still remain a country greatly at risk," former Sen. Warren B. Rudman of New Hampshire said recently. As a member of the President's National Intelligence Advisory Board, Rudman was a co-author of an exhaustive study of 21st century U.S. security needs. Over time, some experts suggest, the Bush administration may modify some of the early commitments and readjust its priorities. A comprehensive security plan that homeland security director Tom Ridge plans to deliver to the president this summer could encourage a balancing of priorities. So could the fine-print scrutiny Congress will give President Bush's budget request for $37.7 billion next year to fight terrorism. Shifting priorities will not be easy. Each program already underway has a constituency and addresses a real need. And the sheer volume of what government officials have on their plates now makes it hard to consider alternatives. Screening airline passengers is a case in point. With more than 670-million passengers a year boarding commercial airline flights, security personnel watching for potential terrorists might improve the odds if they could narrow their focus, instead of trying to check everyone. Inspecting only certain, presumably high-risk racial or ethnic groups is the controversial, discredited practice called "profiling." More benign is singling out low-risk passengers, starting with government workers, government contractors and others with federal security clearances, to issue them "safe-traveler" cards that would let them move quickly through checkpoints. Experts disagree about the idea. Ridge is interested, while John Magaw, head of the new Transportation Security Administration, is skeptical. Whatever the merits, the proposal may not get a thorough vetting any time soon because the officials involved are just too busy. "Mr. Magaw and his fledging organization have their hands full in staffing the organization while at the same time dealing with a continuing crisis in aviation security," said Bille H. Vincent, an aviation consultant who was the Federal Aviation Administration's security chief. "Creating a 40,000-person organization under normal conditions would be a major undertaking. To do so under the existing threat conditions is mind-boggling." -- continued --
Link Posted: 3/17/2002 7:32:09 AM EDT
"What people have got to understand," Magaw himself said recently, "is that four weeks ago, it was just me and a white piece of paper." ___ It is not immediately clear how the blaze starts aboard the GrandCamp, a French Line freighter nestling against a dock in Galveston, Texas. But at mid-morning, when flames reach the cargo of ammonium nitrate, the ship explodes in a blast that shakes a seismograph in Denver. Soon, the docks and an adjacent chemical plant are burning. Deadly gases fill the air as the fire jumps to a nearby oil tank farm, then detonates a second freighter loaded with fertilizer chemicals. The disaster leaves 3,500 people dead or injured, a major petrochemical complex in ruins and a community that once housed 15,000 people incinerated. This is no hypothetical scenario for some future terrorist attack. It actually happened--in 1947. It is just the kind of disaster that many specialists see near the top of the list of terrorist threats that are getting too little attention now. "The greatest threat to the country today is from weapons of mass destruction--or, in the near term, conventional explosives--coming into the country in cargo that is not inspected," Rudman said. "We're talking about chemical and biological warfare, as well as potential weapons of mass destruction. We have to protect what is coming into our country," said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), a member of the Senate Commerce Committee. "We need a system to check cargo as well as people." In a country that imports more than half its oil, every major harbor is lined with tanker terminals, storage farms and petrochemical plants. What makes them especially attractive targets--beyond the destructive power and economic impact--is the fact that cargo shipping has become one unified global, intermodal system, while security is balkanized. Modular containers, which may travel on trucks, ships and trains, are only loosely monitored as they sit on wharves, warehouse floors and outdoor rail yards. Big trucks stream through border crossing points from Mexico and Canada by the thousands each day. Trailers are shunted from rail to road and from one shipping concern to another with no comprehensive system to assure the integrity of cargoes or drivers. The tiny Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, with its 275 inspectors, only recently began to focus on terrorism. After Sept. 11, it counted 38,800 trucking companies with access to U.S. highways that haul "high-consequence" hazardous materials such as explosives, toxic chemicals and radioactive materials. At the federal level, responsibility for border security is divided among the Border Patrol, the Customs Service, the Coast Guard and other agencies--each with its own traditions, priorities, procedures and often-incompatible technology. -- continued --
Link Posted: 3/17/2002 7:32:40 AM EDT
"They're going to have to be consolidated in one Cabinet agency," said a veteran of the security policy wars. Ridge suggested such consolidation soon after his appointment last year, however, the idea ran into massive resistance. Its fate did not reassure Washington insiders, who have watched a succession of other czars--especially in the now-forgotten war on drugs--break their lances against intransigent bureaucracies and special interests. ___ Almost certainly, it is in commercial aviation that the greatest strides have been made in the last six months. But even here, remaining loopholes and lingering resistance to change demonstrate just how large the challenge remains. Congress set a Dec. 31 deadline for screening all checked luggage, an estimated 1-billion bags a year, for explosives. But explosive-detection machines are bulky, expensive and scarce, and they are plagued with operating problems. Integrating them into the flow of baggage handling so that passengers avoid long delays will require millions of dollars in reconstruction of existing systems. Meanwhile, better machines may be developed. "We don't want to be locked into buying machines that will essentially be obsolete," Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta said in a recent interview. Regardless, bags checked by passengers on multi-flight trips get no enhanced screening after being shuttled to a second plane. Airlines argued successfully that the cost and inconvenience would be too great. "You've still got the same deference to the airlines that you always had," said Brian Sullivan, a retired FAA agent, "and I don't think that bodes well for the future." Then there's cargo. Airlines still count on shippers to vouch that their cargo is safe, though several recommendations to improve cargo screening are under review. From airports and seaports to nuclear power plants, landmark buildings and all other potential terrorist targets; protection is not impossible. But it requires choices. "You could shut the country down to an absolute stop if you made it impossible for anything to happen. That could have a more deleterious effect than an occasional failure to stop something, " said Webster. If you want other stories on this topic, search the Archives at latimes.com/archives. For information about reprinting this article, go to www.lats.com/rights.
Link Posted: 3/17/2002 8:46:51 AM EDT
Top Top