Homeland Official to Tell Senate Panel Of Change in Administration Policy. From the Washington Post, .
For the first time, the Bush administration is endorsing mandatory requirements for heightened security at chemical plants, many of which homeland defense experts consider highly vulnerable to catastrophic terrorist attack.
The change in policy is one of the first enunciated by new Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who is conducting a top-to-bottom review of the two-year-old department’s priorities and organizational chart.
Until this week, administration officials had embraced the chemical industry’s proposals for voluntary security precautions, though they had warned that the day might arrive when industry foot-dragging would compel a crackdown.
The new Bush administration stance is outlined in testimony to be delivered today by Robert Stephan, recently named the Homeland Security Department’s undersecretary for intelligence and infrastructure, at a Senate hearing. A transcript was made available by Senate staff members.
“I can report on his behalf that Secretary Chertoff has concluded that . . . the existing patchwork of authorities does not permit us to regulate the industry effectively,” Stephan is to tell the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “While most companies have been eager to cooperate with the department, it has become clear the entirely voluntary efforts of these companies alone will not sufficiently address security for the entire sector.”
U.S. officials say that an attack on some chemical plants in and near large cities, including a number in northern New Jersey, could cause hundreds of thousands of deaths if a resulting chemical cloud were spread by wind. Attacks on any of scores of other sites could result in thousands or tens of thousands of casualties, they said…