Monday, July 9, 2012

House Closes Ammonium Nitrate Hearing

The House Homeland Security Committee web site noted today that the subcommittee hearing on ammonium nitrate that I mentioned in an earlier blog will be a closed hearing. They report that: “Due to the nature of the information at this hearing, the Subcommittee intends to move directly to close the hearing [emphasis in original] and transition to HVC-302 to receive classified testimony.”

While I certainly understand the need to take classified testimony out of public view, I find it very intriguing that there is much about the way that ammonium nitrate is outlawed in Afghanistan that is not part of the public record. Now if this were an intelligence hearing, I would expect that the subcommittee would hear about AN smuggling from Pakistan or Iran, but that would have no bearing on an infrastructure protection hearing.

So what’s going on? I don’t know except that its classified. Since we don’t even yet have a witness list, I can’t even make sophisticated guess. So what could be going on? Well, if this were an FBI witness, I would suspect that there were a recent report from Afghanistan about an IED trainer (probably from the tribal area in Pakistan) that was said to be moving to the US (or sighted in US, or….) to train some local cells in the use of AN for the construction of IEDs.

If this were the case (and remember this is a wild-ass-guess on my part based upon a lack of reasonable information) then the sudden designation of this as a closed hearing would mean that the FBI had essentially closed this case and was now willing to talk to Congress about it, but not yet ready to go public with the information. Why this subcommittee? That would certainly be infrastructure protection related.

What would be interesting to know is if there were someone from the DHS Infrastructure Security Compliance Division also scheduled to testify at this hearing. What would be very interesting would be the questions that should then be asked about the interminable delays in publishing the Congressionally mandated ammonium nitrate security program (ANSP) regulations. Of course to get a good answer to that question there would also have to be a witness from the Office of Management and Budget.

Of course, this is all idle conjecture on my part. There will be a closed hearing on Thursday, and we will probably never know what was covered. Unless, of course, there is the almost inevitable leak…

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