Sunday, April 21, 2013

HR 1542 Introduced – WMD Intelligence

As I mentioned last week, Rep. Meehan (R,PA) introduced HR 1542, the WMD Intelligence and Information Sharing Act of 2013. This bill would amend the Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection subchapter of 6 USC by adding §124n (§210G; see note below) which would add specific weapons of mass destruction intelligence and information sharing requirements. This bill is virtually identical to HR 2764 that was passed in the House in the last session.

NOTE: The bill uses the standard convention of amending the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and bases its section numbering scheme on that document. I have converted these to references to 6 USC as that is easier to find and link to.

General CBRN Focus

This bill would provide for a general focus on CBRN intelligence by requiring the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis (OIA) to “support homeland security-focused intelligence analysis of terrorist actors, their claims, and their plans to conduct attacks involving chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear [CBRN] materials against the Nation” {§124n(a)(1)} and to “leverage existing and emerging homeland security intelligence capabilities and structures to enhance prevention, protection, response, and recovery efforts with respect to a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear attack” {§124n(a)(4)}.

The information sharing requirement for this intelligence only requires OIA to “share information and provide tailored analytical support on these threats to State, local, and tribal authorities” {§124n(a)(4)}. There is no specific requirement to address sharing of this intelligence information with potentially affected private sector entities.

Increased Biosecurity Focus

There is also a more tightly focused concern on biological weapons. While biological attacks are clearly included in the general focus of legislation, the bill goes on to specifically require “homeland security-focused intelligence analysis of global infectious disease, public health, food, agricultural, and veterinary issues” {§124n(a)(2)}. This is clearly intended to provide the Department with potential early warning of a bio-based attack.

Continues to Ignore Industrial Chemical Attack

As with every WMD related bill that I have seen to date, this bill continues to ignore the fact that the easiest WMD attack to execute against this country would be an attack on the storage or transportation of toxic, flammable or explosive industrial chemicals. While there are security programs in place to address the security side of the infrastructure protection equation, there is no one that is specifically tasked with providing the intelligence development and dissemination that those programs need to be most effective.

I would like to see an additional sub-paragraph added to §124n(a) that would read:

“(x) support homeland security-focused intelligence analysis of risks associated with potential attacks on dangerous industrial chemical manufacture, storage, distribution and transportation; with particular emphasis on the potential attempts to steal or divert industrial chemicals that could be used in the manufacture of improvised explosives or chemical weapons;”

Moving Forward
This bill will probably see quick action within the House Homeland Security Committee, particularly since Meehan is the Chair of the Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies. When the bill makes it to the floor of the House it will almost certainly pass with significant bipartisan support. If it makes it to the floor in the Senate it will also be very likely to pass.

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