Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Well, that certainly makes me feel safer:

Four years after the September 11 attacks, investigators were able to easily enter the United States with enough radioactive material to make two so-called dirty bombs, according to a report on a government undercover investigation obtained on Monday.


[T]he investigators, posing as employees of a fictitious, still got past the border patrol with fake paperwork authorizing them to transport the material, the report said.

"The CBP (Customs and Border Patrol) inspectors never questioned the authenticity of the investigators' counterfeit bill of lading or the counterfeit NRC (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) authorizing them to receive, acquire, possess and transfer radioactive sources," the GAO said in a letter to Sen. Norm Coleman, chairman of a Senate
Homeland Security subcommittee.

"We believe the amount of radioactive sources that we were able to transport into the United States during our operation would be sufficient to produce two dirty bombs, which could be used as weapons of mass disruption," the letter said.

The good news is that the radiation monitors actually worked in this case. The bad news? Apparently that doesn't matter, because they could just as easily have gotten the material shipped to Washington D.C. for them. The undercover agents bought the radioactive material by phone from a commercial supplier, who don't have to ask why the customers want it and don't have to get any approval to sell small quantities. So the moral?

"We could have purchased all of the radioactive sources used in our two undercover border crossings by making multiple purchases from different suppliers... using false identities, and had all of the radioactive sources conveniently shipped to our nation's capital," the letter said.

But wait, that's not all! Our railroad security sucks, too:

[J]ust three miles from downtown Newark and seven miles from Manhattan, ... 90-ton tanker cars full of deadly chemical gases are routinely stored and shipped.

Gates to the depot are unlocked and unguarded, allowing unimpeded access to tracks where cars loaded with deadly chlorine, ammonia or oleum gases are stored.

Along the track bed, many switching devices are unlocked, so unauthorized passers-by could redirect, and possibly derail, a train by simply pulling a lever. Security is so lax that a reporter and photographer recently spent 10 minutes driving along a rail bed beside cars holding toxic chemicals without being challenged, or even approached, by railroad employees.

And it seems Bush has done nothing despite rambling about how he's gonna prevent another attack and make us safer:

The Homeland Security Department has been reluctant to tighten regulations regarding the transportation of deadly chemicals by rail. In his speech last week, Mr. Chertoff made only passing reference to the risks of transporting the deadly cargo, and there is no indication that the department will require the kind of changes in equipment and procedures that security experts say will reduce the risk of a terrorist attack or catastrophic accident.

"Chemical transport is clearly the greatest vulnerability in the country today, and for some reason — and I'm not sure what it is — the federal government has not acted," said Richard A. Falkenrath, President Bush's former deputy homeland security adviser. "There's no legislation necessary, the government already has the authority to require stronger containers, reroute shipments, and allow the kind of tracking that would allow local police agencies to know what they have to contend with in their communities. But to date it hasn't been done."

In some cases they even hinder such actions:

[T]he [D]epartment [of Homeland Security] will not require any shift to safer technology, Mr. Chertoff said, and the chemical security bill he is now advocating is likely to prevent states from adopting any such requirement.

Why? Because apparently the years they've spent in office isn't enough time to consider the problem thoroughly enough:

Brian Doyle, a Homeland Security Department spokesman, said it wanted to complete a thorough assessment of the system before imposing any restrictions on the railways. "It's one thing to just throw money at something and say it is fixed," he said. "But you want to do it right."

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