U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Thursday issued a summary of steps her department and cooperating organizations have taken toward meeting the September 11 commission's 2004 security recommendations (see GSN, April 21).
"Ten years after the September 11, 2001 attacks, America is stronger and more resilient than ever before, but threats from terrorism persist and challenges remain," Napolitano said in a statement. "Over the past decade, we have made great strides to secure our nation against a large attack or disaster, to protect critical infrastructure and cyber networks, and to engage a broader range of Americans in the shared responsibility for security. We recognize and thank the many men and women of DHS, all of our partners, and the law enforcement officers and emergency management professionals who work on the front lines every day protecting America, at home and abroad" (U.S. Homeland Security Department release, July 21).
Addressing the September 11 commission's call for the United States to "strengthen counterproliferation efforts to prevent radiological [and] nuclear terrorism," the department cited its 6-year-old its Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, which seeks to counter nuclear- and radiological-weapon threats by pursuing relevant tracking and forensics efforts in cooperation with federal, state and local entities.
The office and other federal entities work to "integrate ... efforts to develop nuclear detection capabilities, respond to detection alarms, conduct research and development, and coordinate the development of the global nuclear detection architecture," according to the document. Lawmakers late last year received a DNDO planning document for the global nuclear detection architecture, the report notes (see GSN, Jan. 5).
Radiation detection systems now "scan 100 percent of all containerized cargo and personal vehicles arriving in the U.S. through land ports of entry, as well as over 99 percent of arriving sea containers," up from 68 percent of vehicles along the U.S.-Canadian border and cargo at a single seaport in 2003, the summary states. "Additionally, DHS has procured thousands of personal radiation detectors, radiological isotope identification devices, and backpack detectors" for federal, state and local authorities, it adds.
The department said it had recommended in fiscal 2012 extending the Securing the Cities program to safeguard urban centers beyond New York City against a nuclear or radiological attacks (see GSN, April 13).
"Through STC, nearly 11,000 personnel in the New York City region have been trained in preventive radiological and nuclear detection operations and nearly 6,000 pieces of radiological detection equipment have been deployed," says the document, which also refers to a radiological attack drill conducted in New York City in April (see GSN, April 12).
"Since its inception, DNDO has initiated more than 250 research and development projects with
national laboratory, academic and industrial partners to advance detection technologies," the report adds. "DNDO has also conducted more than 50 test and evaluation campaigns of detection equipment, which
have informed federal, state, and local users of the technical and operational performance of
various radiological and nuclear detection systems."
The department said it also is assigned to develop systems for better analyzing nuclear materials, atomic detonations and debris from a radiological event, helping the United States to identify and potentially retaliate against the perpetrators of a radiological or nuclear attack.
The 3-year-old National Nuclear Forensics Expertise Development Program, carried out in conjunction with the Defense and Energy departments, aims "to address the critical human capital needs of the technical nuclear forensics community" by supporting relevant advanced training efforts, the report states.
The DNDO National Technical Nuclear Forensics Center established by the 2010 Nuclear Forensics and Attribution Act aims "to coordinate centralized planning and exercises; provide continual assessment and evaluation; and promote international collaboration. The NTNFC has facilitated assessments of national nuclear forensics capabilities through collaboration with the National Academy of Sciences," the document says.
A five-year nuclear forensics capabilities development plan submitted to lawmakers in April 2010 "outlines policy, analytical, and budgetary investments to support and improve the nation‘s nuclear forensics and attribution capabilities," according to the summary.
The Counterproliferation Investigations program overseen by Immigration and Customs Enforcement helps to implement U.S. commerce restrictions in an effort to keep WMD components and other sensitive materials out of the hands of extremists and hostile powers, the report notes.
"ICE established the National Export Enforcement Coordination Network to better coordinate export enforcement efforts among law enforcement agencies and with the intelligence community. In addition, through Project Shield America, ICE conducts outreach to manufacturers and exporters of strategic commodities that are believed to be targeted for procurement by terrorist organizations and the countries that support them, as well as countries identified as weapons proliferators," the document says.
"In November 2010, President Obama issued an executive order authorizing the establishment of the Export Enforcement Coordination Center to coordinate and enhance export control enforcement efforts among federal law enforcement agencies, export licensing agencies, and the intelligence community. The center will begin operations in late 2011," the report states.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency's Federal Radiological Preparedness Coordination Committee "provides detailed information regarding roles,
responsibilities, and coordinating instructions for a range of radiological and nuclear threats to
planners across all levels of government, the private sector and nongovernmental organizations," the report states.
"To improve state and local biopreparedness, the department established the first formalized sharing of public health and intelligence information with state and local health partners in 2009," the document adds. "In 2010, the department developed and conducted a series of biodefense response exercises, including one in each of the 10 FEMA regions, involving more than 1,000 state and local officials. The department has also contributed to the physical safety and security of biological select agent facilities by completing buffer zone plans and site assistance visits, and providing grant funding to first responders at these facilities" (U.S. Homeland Security Department report, July 21).
Meanwhile, the department in a new intelligence assessment said "violent extremists have ... obtained insider positions" at public utilities and "outsiders have attempted to solicit utility-sector employees" to carry out strikes against computer systems and physical infrastructure, ABC News reported this week.
"Based on the reliable reporting of previous incidents, we have high confidence in our judgment that insiders and their actions pose a significant threat to the infrastructure and information systems of U.S. facilities," states the report, titled "Insider Threat to Utilities."
"Past events and reporting also provide high confidence in our judgment that insider information on sites, infrastructure, networks, and personnel is valuable to our adversaries and may increase the impact of any attack on the utilities infrastructure," the analysis adds.
The department said it had not identified a particular plot. A purported U.S. al-Qaeda affiliate detained last year had been employed at five East Coast atomic power stations (see GSN, March 15, 2010; Brian Ross, ABC News, July 20).
Still, extremists have targeted air transport more than any other U.S. sector in the years since the September 11 attacks, Napolitano told the Associated Press on Thursday.
"Aviation continues to be the most-often referenced intel that we receive," a fact that has prompted increasingly stringent security measures to be implemented at U.S. airports, she said.
In addition, the threat posed by radicalized individuals has overtaken worries about nuclear terrorism in the minds of security officials, according to AP (Eileen Sullivan, Associated Press/Google News, July 21).