WITH the Boston Marathon bombings still fresh for many people, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents urged tank truck fleet safety directors and their companies to remain vigilant. They added that it is critical for fleet personnel to report suspicious activity.
FBI special agents David Autrey and Scott Schons discussed the terrorism potential in the United States during the National Tank Truck Carriers Tank Truck Safety & Security Council annual seminar June 4-6 in Denver, Colorado. They said that tank truck fleets can be an important part of the effort to protect the United States against future terrorist attacks.
Autrey and Schons encouraged more fleet participation in FBI counter-terrorism programs, including eGuardian and InfraGard. Some tank truck carriers already are participating in these programs.
“We want to work more closely with this industry, because we know terrorist groups are aware of the hazardous cargoes you transport,” Autrey said. “This conference was the first time I was asked to meet with the tank truck industry.”
The eGuardiansystem was developed to help meet the challenges of collecting and sharing terrorism-related activities amongst law enforcement agencies across various jurisdictions. It is a sensitive but unclassified (SBU) information sharing platform hosted through Law Enforcement Online (LEO).
The eGuardiansystem allows law enforcement agencies to combine new suspicious activity reports (SARs) along with existing (legacy) SAR reporting systems to form a single information repository accessible to thousands of law enforcement personnel. The information captured in eGuardianis also migrated to the FBI’s internal Guardian system, where it is assigned to the appropriate Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) for any further investigative action.
InfraGard is an FBI program that began in the Cleveland, Ohio, Field Office in 1996. It was a local effort to gain support from the information technology industry and academia for the FBI’s investigative efforts in the cyber arena. The program expanded to other FBI Field Offices, and in 1998 the FBI assigned national program responsibility for InfraGard to the former National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) and to the Cyber Division in 2003.
While under the direction of NIPC, the focus of InfraGard was cyber infrastructure protection. After September 11, 2001 NIPC expanded its efforts to include physical as well as cyber threats to critical infrastructures, including highway and rail transportation.
At its most basic level, InfraGard is a partnership between the FBI and the private sector, according to Schons. The key objective is the sharing of information and intelligence to prevent hostile acts against the United States. InfraGard Chapters are geographically linked with FBI Field Office territories. Each InfraGard Chapter has an FBI Special Agent Coordinator assigned to it, and the coordinator works closely with Supervisory Special Agent Program Managers in the Cyber Division at FBI Headquarters in Washington DC.
Through these programs, the FBI was able to interrupt several planned terrorist attacks already. The bureau also collected intelligence that gave agents a more detailed understanding of terrorist targets in the United States.
“We were able to analyze the specific risks posed by various weapons of mass destruction,” Autrey said. “For instance, we were able to determine that at this time, the risk of a terrorist using a nuclear weapon in a US attack is very small. Yes, these weapons would create large number of casualties, but terrorists can’t get them easily. You can’t just drive up to a government facility and take a nuke.
“On the other hand, the FBI believes that the use of a biological weapon is far more likely. A good example was the recent incident in which a packet of ricin was sent to the White House. In addition, there were the attacks with anthrax in the wake of 9/11.”
Autrey emphasized the concern the FBI has about the risks posed by chemical and petroleum facilities. “I’ve driven by a lot of chemical facilities with almost no security in place,” he said. “Tank fleets are vulnerable because their trucks are on the road daily. It’s hard to fully protect the trucks and drivers.”
Chlorine shipments may be a particular target. In Iraq, al-Qaeda operatives have tried to create weapons of mass destruction with cylinders of chlorine, but they have had mixed success, according to Autrey.
“Al-Qaeda’s primary objective is the disruption of our society,” he said. “How many people did they scare away from flying with the 9/11 attacks? They are very good at that sort of thing.
“How much damage and disruption could be accomplished with a petroleum tanker set on fire under a bridge or overpass? How long would such a fire have to burn before it caused structural damage that blocked traffic? That’s all a terrorist has to do to disrupt your life.”
While al-Qaeda tops the list of international terrorists on the FBI’s list of entities threatening the United States, the agency has developed a lengthy list of potential terrorist—both international and domestic. On the domestic side are eco and animal rights terrorists, anarchist extremists, militia groups, and white supremists. Increasingly, the terrorist threat is coming from lone-wolf operators.
Of all the home-grown terrorist groups in the United States, Autrey said he believes the eco and animal rights groups may post the biggest threat to the business sector. “You’re likely to be hit by environmental or animal rights terrorism at some point,” he said. “These groups are getting bigger and bigger, and they are popular with the left. You need to know what the ELF (Environmental Liberation Front) and ALF (Animal Liberation Front) tags look like if you see something painted on one of your vehicles or building at your terminals.”
Preventing terrorist attacks requires constant vigilance. Fleet managers must be aware that terrorists may try to infiltrate a carrier by getting hired as drivers. “We know al-Qaeda wants access to hazardous materials shipments,” Autrey said. “They can learn a lot by pulling data on your company off the Internet. Facebook is a big source of data that is useful to terrorists.”
Following 9/11, the FBI did a thorough review of everyone with a US CDL and hazmat endorsement. “We found zero terrorists,” he said. “However, we did find roughly 3,000 illegal aliens driving hazardous materials vehicles in the United States.”
Autrey added that more effective background checks are needed for truck drivers that handle hazardous materials. “We believe it’s still too easy to obtain a CDL (commercial driver license) and hazardous materials endorsement with fake documents,” he said. “Birth certificates for dead children are easy to get. You just pay the fee; no questions asked. That’s the first step to getting a driver’s license. All it takes to get a driver license in some states is a credit card.”
Autrey cautioned that fleet personnel should pay closer attention to people who seem to be hanging around a terminal for no reason. “Are your facilities being watched?” he asked. “Are your drivers being watched? Are you seeing unauthorized vehicles on your property? Have you observed anyone taking photographs of your facilities?
Terrorists will watch for quite a while, he said. They want to see if they can enter your property without being challenged.
Suspicious actions may include phone calls requesting information on a tank truck carrier and the cargoes hauled. “Do you get phone calls from someone saying he is a college student doing research?” Autrey asked. “Is he really who he says he is?”
Other suspicious actions include individuals using cash for transactions made in someone else’s name. Requests for shipments to an unusual location or requests for deliveries without an account also should raise warning flags.
Suspicious actions need to be reported to the FBI. When reporting such concerns, fleet managers need to ask to speak with the weapons of mass destruction coordinator at the local or regional office.
“To date, we’ve been fortunate that the terrorists haven’t been more successful in the United States,” Autrey said. “The Patriot Act gave us more anti-terrorism tools, and we are working hard to make it difficult for terrorists to operate here. We need your help to keep the pressure on the would-be terrorists.” ♦
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