Friday, February 09, 2007


Note: Remember when they last tested NYC for high radiation levels and found that high reading at the Israeli embassy......................

New York to be a testing ground for terror defense system
By Eric Lipton

Friday, February 9, 2007
New York City is about to become a laboratory to test ways of strengthening U.S. defenses against a terror attack by a nuclear device or a radioactive "dirty bomb."

Starting this spring, the Bush administration will assess new detection machines at a Staten Island port terminal that are designed to screen cargo and automatically distinguish between naturally occurring radiation and critical bomb-building ingredients.

And this year, the federal government plans to begin setting up an elaborate network of radiation alarms at some bridges, tunnels, roadways and waterways into New York, creating a 50-mile, or 80-kilometer, circle around the city.

The effort, which could be expanded to other cities if proven successful, is a major shift of focus for the Department of Homeland Security.

As it finishes installing the first generation of radiation scanners at the nation's ports and land border crossings, the department is trying to find ways to stop a plot that would use a weapon built in the United States.

"How do you create deterrence against terrorism?" said Vayl Oxford, director of the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, the Homeland Security agency coordinating the work. "You complicate the ability for the terrorist to do what they want."

But even as the new campaign begins, some members of Congress and anti- terrorism experts are raising concerns that the initiative, like previous Homeland Security programs, could prove extraordinarily costly and provide few security gains.

"This is just total baloney," said Tara O'Toole, a former assistant secretary at the Department of Energy, where she oversaw nuclear weapons safety efforts. "They are forgetting that no matter what type of engineering solution they try in good faith to come up with, this is a thinking enemy and they will look for a way around it."

While Homeland Security officials repeatedly declined to estimate the costs of a nationwide detection system, agency documents show they might spend more than a billion dollars on the cargo-screening equipment alone.

Local officials in New York are sparring with Homeland Security over a plan to immediately transfer to the local and state authorities the burden of maintaining and operating the network of detection machines when it is completed within several years.

"We are concerned they will put money forward for a piece of hardware and then move to another project," said Raymond Kelly, the New York City police commissioner.

Kelly added that while the city supported the plan, he was not convinced that the proposed detection network would work. "Whether or not it works, whether or not it causes too many false alarms, which causes a whole other set of problems, all of these things are still to be determined."

Oxford said he was aware of the concerns about costs, which are still the subject of negotiations, and the performance of the detection machines. But with a threat like a nuclear attack, he said, the country cannot afford to wait until all the details are worked out.

"Our philosophy is not to wait for perfection, because perfection never comes," he said during an interview in his Washington office.


Copyright © 2007 The International Herald Tribune |


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