Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Reader Comment – 02-04-10 Ammonium Nitrate

Still catching up on reader comments from last week. Laurie Thomas left a comment on the IED Training blog. She noted that:
“Anyone who wants to have their eyes opened about IED's on U. S. soil needs to take about ten minutes and simply do an internet search on stolen ammonium nitrate. Big amounts here, big amounts there. Some large enough to warrant DHS threat directives. The first hit is, "Canada - 2 tons of ammonium nitrate possibly still missing?" What is scarier, that people are walking away with the stuff; or that despite all our precautions and programs our accounting is so porous that we just don't know how much of the stuff is supposed to be on hand?”
Both theft and loss of ammonium nitrate (AN) are potential problems for security personnel that are trying to prevent IED attacks across the country. Currently the only controls in place on the sale or transfer of AN are voluntary measures put into place by the AN industry and some State controls. Clearly, these are not adequate security procedures.

One of the major problems facing DHS in establishing their regulation of AN is how to deal with the bulk shipment and transfer of this solid material. AN fertilizer is used in very large quantities in many areas of the country and is sold by barge and truck load quantities. The controls on transfers of such large quantities are going to be difficult to establish in such a manner so as to allow the detection of theft or diversion of amounts that can be used in relatively large IEDs or even in small VBIEDs.

Even where AN is used in smaller packaged quantities, it is going to be difficult to convince users to establish the level of inventory controls necessary to detect the theft and/or diversion of IED quantities of AN. Because of the significant change in handling procedures required to affect this level of inventory control it will take a significant sized inspection force to enforce the new regulations; an inspection force that Congress has not allowed for in their funding for this program. 

DHS has its work cut out for it as it tries to develop regulations designed to prevent the theft and diversion of this commodity chemical that can be readily converted to a powerful explosive.

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