May 8, 2006 | Commentary on National Security and Defense
When it comes to
homeland security, it often seems better to err on the side of
caution. But it's possible to go overboard and protect ourselves
from things we need.
The same principle applies to our chemical security infrastructure. As with aspirin bottles, we can't simply "childproof" the United States against every conceivable vulnerability that terrorists could exploit. After all, chemicals are everywhere, and we need them for a vast number of purposes.
We do need some protection, though.
Tanker trucks, rail cars, ships, pipelines, barrels of poisons carried in trucks, other hazardous materials, and chemical manufacturing and storage facilities are all potential weapons in the hands of a terrorist.
In addition to striking industrial entities, small-scale attacks could use an arsenal of contaminants and toxins that are available to virtually anyone or "secured" in areas with little or no real security. Fuels, pesticides and solvents can be used as poisons and contaminants. In fact, terrorist groups overseas are showing a growing tendency to use readily available materials to conduct strikes.
Just two years ago, for example, Jordanian officials captured a group of al-Qaeda terrorists with tons of chemicals, including sulfuric acid. Security sources said the planned attack would have rivaled 9/11. It would have involved a combination of 71 lethal chemicals, which would have been spread through explosions and possibly as a deadly cloud causing third-degree burns, paralysis and choking.
The potential effects of a deliberate attack are sobering. An Environmental Protection Agency survey of 15,000 chemical facilities found that in a worst-case scenario, a toxic chemical release could affect an average of 40,247 people.
What we need is common-sense legislation that protects us against such catastrophic threats. The government should focus its efforts on finding and stopping terrorist groups rather than overregulating the chemical industry, which is so integral to the U.S. economy.
The U.S. needs legislation that requires the private sector to implement reasonable measures to reduce the likelihood of catastrophic chemical disasters. At the same time, the new law shouldn't impose unnecessary costs. The legislation should:
First appeared in FOXNews.com