Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Rush to Misjudgment

There was an interesting blog posted over the weekend on ThreatsWatch.ORG by Michael Tanji. He makes the very important point that, just because there has not been a major terrorist attack in the United States since 9/11, we should not be lowering our collective guard. This may be especially true of security at high-risk chemical facilities.

Lack of Credible Threats?

Not only has there not been an attack on a high-risk facility, but, to date, there has been no credible report of a planned attack that has been thwarted. Does this mean that mean that the time and money being spent (and most assuredly yet to be spent) on complying with the relatively new CFATS regulations is being wasted? The answer is an equivocal yes.

Money spent on security is always wasted, until an attack occurs. The money spent on airport security in the United States up until September 10th, 2001 was wasted. After all, how long had it been since there was an actual hijack in the United States. September 11th came along and we found out how little we had actually been spending; certainly not enough in hind sight.

Other Threats

In many cases, the anti-terrorist security measures put into place under CFATS will have benefits against other threats. Increasingly we are finding that there are security threats beyond terrorism.

Criminal threats are increasing. The theft of anhydrous ammonia to fuel illegal drug manufacturing is a threat to our city streets, but also a threat of unintended releases by inept thieves. It is only a matter of time before European organized crime organizations spread their SCADA extortion plots to chemical facilities in the United States.

Increasing societal concerns about environmental chemicals, in both the macro and micro environments, bring about more vocal complaints against chemical companies. The louder those complaints get, the more likely it is that the individual ‘wacko’ factor will result in revenge attacks on chemical facilities.

Economic factors will also increase the risk of attacks on chemical facilities. We have already seen valve thefts that have resulted in chemical releases. The continued increasing value placed on scrap metal and fuels will only see the frequency of these ‘attacks increase’.

Expansion of Focus

While the terrorist threat remains the threat of highest potential consequence (if perhaps lower probability) the focus of chemical security regulations should be expanded to include these other threats. This would not require major changes in focus, just the acknowledgement that there are other security threats than just terrorists.

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