Friday, January 22, 2010

Reader Comment – 1-22-10 – Fertilizer 2

Red Team responded yesterday’s installment of our on-going discussion on chemical security issues. Red Team provides a number of examples of the tactical use of ammonium nitrate (AN) fertilizer as a terrorist explosive. Then Red Team points out that the easiest place to obtain AN is to steal it from an agricultural coop where there is little or no security.

All very valid and worrisome points for anyone that is concerned with preventing terrorist VBIED attacks since ANFO (AN fuel oil mixture) is the explosive of choice for such a device; cheap, easy to obtain, make and use. Red Team then points out that: “There is more deadly potential in AN than there is in many other COIs within Appendix A. History has proven that.” Right again; outside of the TIH chemicals like chlorine, fluorine, and anhydrous ammonia, or the actual CW agents (fortunately not readily available), AN is the most likely industrial-chemical weapon to be used terrorists.

Red Team closes the comment by saying: “Security Theater is a very real problem, giving DHS a pass because they are busy is not the answer.” I am assuming that the ‘Security Theater’ he is talking about is the TSA airport screening process. I would have to agree with that. Now that everyone knows about flying airliners into sky scrappers, that won’t be allowed to happen again. The smartest thing that was done after 9/11 was the hardening of cockpits to prevent terrorists from gaining control of the controls. Now all counter-air attacks are reduced to retail terrorism instead of wholesale terrorism.

We are spending an awful lot of money trying to be 100% successful defending individual planes from attack. We need to face it, we are going to lose some more aircraft; it is inevitable. Now, about the last part of that statement, I need to correct an obvious misunderstanding. I am not giving DHS a pass on their inability to get AN regulations in place. I frequently take them to task for not getting this done publicly and privately.

I don’t rant and rave about it, because I understand the problem. Congress gave them a politically and technically difficult task and no resources to complete the task. Like any good soldier, they saluted and are doing the best that they can. They have not yet been successful in accomplishing that mission, but just like LTC Smith who was ‘at fault’ for not stopping the initial invasion of Korea, they do not have the resources to get the job done.

Now, Congress doesn’t have the resources to give because of any number of political decisions that they have made. Those decisions won’t be changed until something goes boom. We (the United States) may be ‘fortunate’ because the boom might happen next month in Vancouver with the 6,000 ‘missing’ pounds of AN lighting up a Winter Olympic venue. That will be a Canadian problem, but it will get an appropriate reaction here. Hopefully I am wrong and it is an accounting error or maybe the RCMP will find the material before it explosively decomposes. In any case, I am afraid that that is what it is going to take.


Red Team said...

Good point Coyle. I really enjoy the discussion on your blog.

PJCoyle said...

I certainly enjoyed the discussion as well. Anytime you want to jump into the discussion feel free.

BTW: Were any of your red team exercises conducted at chemical facilities other than fuel terminals? If so were there any generic (not facility specific) comments that you would be interested in sharing?

Red Team said...

Good question. Without going into details, many facilities simply appear to rely on the misconception that extremist groups lack the required knowledge of the deadly potential of various chemicals.

When asked why they didn't attempt to secure various assets containing certain chemicals, many sites simply reply that an adversary isn't going to know how to use it.

PJCoyle said...

For my response to Red Team's latest comment see

/* Use this with templates/template-twocol.html */