Monday, September 13, 2010

Congressional Hearings Week of 09-13-10

Congress returns from their lengthy summer recess amid concerns by the Democrats that they might not be able to maintain control of the House during the next session. This will make it more important for them to pass politically critical legislation. Republicans, on the other hand, will probably be more obstructionist as they will see that as the way to keep their base fired up going into the election.

In that political environment we are looking at only one currently scheduled committee hearing that might be of interest to the chemical security community. The emphasis is on ‘currently scheduled’ as three committees have yet to update their web sites that we expect to see chemical security related action in the coming weeks. Those committees are the two appropriations committees and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Terror Threat

The House Homeland Security Committee will be holding a hearing on Wednesday, September 15th at 10:00 am EDT. They will be looking at a new report from the National Security Preparedness Group of the Bipartisan Policy Center that looks at the evolving nature of terrorism.

This report is an interesting look at the recent history of jihadist terrorism and its potential for future attacks against US interests domestically and abroad. One major weakness of this report is that it does just look at jihadist actions; it does not address narco-terrorism nor does it look at the potential for eco-terrorism. Both of these have been increasingly in the news this summer.

Having said that, this report does make a point that is a major contradiction of pronouncements of this and the former Administrations; it does not see a significant threat of a terrorist attack with a real weapon of mass destruction. It addresses that issue this way (pg 4):

“Despite al-Qaeda’s long interest in acquiring chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) weapons, on the infrequent occasions that it or its affiliates have tried to deploy crude versions of these weapons their efforts have fizzled, as was evident in the largely ineffectual campaign of chlorine bomb attacks by “Al-Qaeda in Iraq” in 2007. Militant jihadist groups will be able to deploy only crude chemical, biological, or radiological weapons for the foreseeable future, and these will not be true “weapons of mass destruction,” but rather weapons of mass disruption, whose principal effect will be panic but likely few deaths.”
This is a refreshingly pragmatic view. It will be interesting to see if anyone on the Committee asks the panel members what they think of the prospects are for an attack on high-risk chemical facilities.

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