Authorities Conduct "Dirty Bomb" Drill in New York

Authorities in New York City yesterday conducted a simulated search for sea vessels that could be carrying radiological "dirty bomb" material, CNN reported (see GSN, July 2).

The exercise involved eight local, state and federal agencies, including the New York Police Department and the U.S. Coast Guard. The purpose was to test whether the agencies could effectively detect and interdict substances that could be used in an attack on the city.

"We're a big city, and there are vulnerabilities," said New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

"We do know that Osama Bin Laden several years ago obtained a fatwa to use nuclear weapons, and our goal is to make certain that that fatwa does not come to fruition," Kelly said.

Participating agencies deployed vessels at the entrance to New York Harbor, near the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge that connects Staten Island and Brooklyn. They used radiation detectors to monitor eight target vessels for possible dirty bomb material.

One leisure craft set off alarms, which led responders to board the vessel and discover a substance identified as cesium 137, CNN reported.

Threats can come from seagoing vessels of any size, said NYPD Sgt. Art Mogil.

"It doesn't require a large vessel. A device can be just a few pounds and still be a major threat," he said.

Along with offering practice to personnel, the drill served as a message to would-be terrorists, Kelly said: "It pays to advertise to a certain extent. We want anyone who would do us harm to know that we're out there, that we have the capability to detect."

Yesterday's drill was conducted through the federally funded Securing the Cities pilot program, which is intended to surround New York City with radiation sensors, NBC New York reported. The Obama administration's has requested no funding for the initiative for fiscal 2010, though lawmakers sought to restore financing (see GSN, June 29; Jason Kessler, CNN, Aug. 4).

August 5, 2009
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Authorities in New York City yesterday conducted a simulated search for sea vessels that could be carrying radiological "dirty bomb" material, CNN reported (see GSN, July 2).