Mitigating the Chemical Threat
Ag retailers and supply channel companies are being focused on with the expectation that any company maintain properly secure facilities, have procedures for security, vet employees and offer employee training—even if their operations haven’t landed them into a high-risk ranking by CFATS. That focus on retailers is both from DHS and the FBI.
FBI COUNTER TERRORISM
There is a lot of counter terrorism focus by the FBI related to industrial chemicals and explosives, noted Bill DelBagno, FBI supervisory special agent, in speaking to the same group as Handke last summer—the National Agronomic Health & Safety School attendees.
DelBagno explained the place that ag retailers and distributors fit into when a threat occurs to the U.S. from terrorists. There are three opportunities for counter-terrorist measures to stop a threat—acquisition phase of precursor chemicals, the equipment and the knowledge; development phase when a device is being built and chemicals prepared for packaging; and the execution phase when the terrorist is ready to take action.
“The acquisition phase is really where our interaction with industry comes into play. This is where we have our earliest and greatest opportunity to identify terrorists. During this phase, they have to obtain the materials that they are going to use for their attack,” DelBagno said.
In general, precursors to explosives and other methods of mass destruction have to be purchased somewhere, rather than smuggled into the country. The focus on explosives is natural.
©ISTOCKPHOTO.COM “Typically these are the chemicals sold over the counter at many different stores and retailers, and they can be used to create explosives. A lot of our focus is here because it is so easy to obtain these materials; in most cases, it doesn’t require identification or a large amount of money, and the knowledge of how to use these is very easy to obtain,” DelBagno explained.
Continuing he said, “We also look at the toxic industrial chemicals, and these are typically where the chemicals are manufactured, stored or transported, and a simple release of these chemicals would cause harm. There also can be some modification used once these chemicals are obtained to modify them into an improvised device that could be used in a confined space.”
EXAMPLES OF LOSSES
Handke provided examples of just what DelBagno talked about. The DHS focus is on theft and diversion. He noted the theft of 10 propane tanks should raise a red flag because the Times Square bomber tried to use similar tanks to improvise a car bomb.