Few hard facts have come out about the mysterious incident in Freeport, Texas: where a security guard at the BASF chemical plant was shot in the shoulder by a man he describes as Middle Eastern or Pakistani. The man was taking pictures of the lights at the chemical plant, and sped away after the shooting in a truck on which the license plates were concealed.
On the one hand, the FBI is saying that the incident is not terror-related:
The shooting of an unarmed security guard at a chemical plant here drew the attention of national security officials because the gunman, who was described as having a heavy accent, told the guard he was taking photographs of the area.
But after repeated interviews with the shooting victim, federal authorities Saturday said they have little reason to believe the incident was the work of terrorists.
“As we have looked at this, we don’t believe we have any kind of a terrorist threat or that there was any kind of terrorist planning or organization going on,” FBI spokesman Bob Doguim said Saturday. . . .
Doguim would not say if House had changed his story, and he declined to give specifics about why law enforcement officials were leaning against the incident being terrorist-related. But he noted that there had been no intelligence suggesting such an event might occur.
“This is isolated,” Doguim said, “and we have no other information out there to suggest we should look at this in any other way.”
That’s curious in light of the fact that in an unrelated story, the FBI acknowledges that Islamic terrorists may be targeting ports — like Freeport, which calls itself “one of the fastest growing ports on the entire Gulf Coast” and is “currently ranked as the 16th largest port in the United States in terms of tonnage”? This from AP:
America’s seaports are vulnerable targets that have attracted interest from terrorists, an FBI counterterrorism official told senators Tuesday.
“The intelligence we have certainly points to ports as a key vulnerability,” said Gary M. Bald, inspector-deputy assistant director of the FBI’s counterterrorism division. “I can’t be more specific as to the threats of attacks. We have received information that indicates there is an interest.” . . .
Sens. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who convened the hearing of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on terrorism, technology and homeland security, said more must be done. Measures to protect seaports and waterways have lagged behind efforts aimed at airports and airplanes since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“The ports are the soft underbelly of our nation’s security,” Feinstein said.
The Coast Guard still is assessing how many ships, ports, ferry terminals and fuel-chemical tank farms failed to meet a Dec. 31 deadline for submitting security plans, said the agency’s director of port security, Rear Admiral Larry Hereth.
The latest estimates are that 60 percent of 5,000 facility plans and 75 percent of 10,000 vessel plans have been received, Hereth said.
All right. Maybe terrorists are targeting ports but this Middle Eastern man who was photographing a chemical plant and shot a security guard has nothing to do with that targeting. Maybe. But I hope that this is not a case of the left hand at the FBI not knowing what the right hand is doing: the fact that one official says that “there had been no intelligence suggesting such an event might occur” while another says that “the intelligence we have certainly points to ports as a key vulnerability” is at very least puzzling.
UPDATE: Allegations are flying thick and fast in this case. Maybe the guard is unstable and shot himself to get attention. Maybe he was involved in a bad drug deal. This whole thing could turn out to be nothing at all. On the other hand, I have been sent other reports of strange incidents involving photography of sensitive sites — all of which have been dismissed by authorities. I hope the full truth will come out.