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Failure to illuminate

June 1, 2010
Conley says MTI security report confirms what NTTC knew before 9/11: ‘We have some things that bad people could do bad things with’
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In response to the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) request that the Mineta Transportation Institute's (MIT) National Transportation Security Center of Excellence provide research and insights on the security risks created by the highway transportation of hazardous materials, the institute went into overdrive.

It reviewed and revised research performed in 2007 and 2008 and assembled a small team of terrorism and emergency-response experts, led by center director Brian Michael Jenkins. They developed a voluminous report on the risks of terrorists using highway shipments of flammable liquids to cause casualties anywhere and ways to reduce those risks.

In January, MTI released “Potential Terrorist Uses of Highway Borne Hazardous Materials.” The result left National Tank Truck Carriers (NTTC) President John Conley and Vice-President Dan Furth rather underwhelmed. They analyzed the MTI study during the NTTC Tank Truck Safety & Security Council Annual Seminar April 6-8 in Nashville, Tennessee.

“The good news in the whole report is that there's virtually nothing in it,” Conley said. “They spent a lot of time on research and found out what we were talking about prior to 9/11: We have some things that bad people could do bad things with. There's probably some traffic-flow data that, if it's accurate, could be useful for other things. But there's nothing in there that makes you say, ‘Gee, I didn't know that.’ Which isn't a bad thing.

“There's a tremendous amount of money being spent/wasted in the name of security. If you're in Congress and somebody wants you to sponsor something to raise money for security, you can't be against it. How can you be for the terrorists? That's how poisonous Washington DC has become. It's easy for us who live with this stuff to say, ‘It took you 97 pages to say that gasoline burns?’ ”

Soft targets

Furth said terrorists mostly seek soft targets that will yield significant casualties, prefer attacks on public buildings and assemblies in simple operations promising modest consequences, and will substitute fire for hard-to-get explosives.

“They're going to target petroleum and to a lesser extent propane because they burn more,” he said. “Tank trucks are most attractive to terrorists because of the potential for intense fire. They operate in target-rich environments and follow predictable routes. Tank trucks are not accompanied by police cars, so they're an easy target.”

The MTI report recommended that state and federal authorities should work together to:

  • Increase the required and recommended security measures that apply to gasoline transport and propane tanker fleets. “Clearly, the federal government considers gasoline and propane to be ‘lower-consequence’ materials,” the report said. “MTI considers them to be higher-probability materials for attacks with average, yet lethal, consequences.”

  • Urgently resolve jurisdictional issues and increase the strength of inspection of hazardous materials security measures implemented in the field. “It is critical that federal or state inspectors ensure that required measures are implemented and that recommended measures are understood and encouraged,” according to the report.

  • Attempt to find ways to encourage the implementation of vehicle tracking and immobilization systems by gasoline and propane tanker fleets.

  • Encourage the highest possible degree of coordination between the federal and state authorities and centers that will be involved in responding to a terrorist threat or actual attack involving highway-borne hazmat used against highway infrastructure. “There are many such authorities and centers, and their power relative to each other will no doubt continue to evolve over time. This suggests that state authorities should maintain a current understanding of how these authorities and centers would actually respond to threats and attacks, by studying them thoroughly and by participating wherever possible in exercises to gain this insight. The federal authorities and centers that can be involved are many; they include the long-standing FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) and the newer Fusion Centers; the Federal Inter-Agency Group (FIG); the DHS led National Infrastructure Coordination Center (NICC) and the National Operations Center (NOC); TSA's Terrorist Screening Center; and FEMA's field office and command center.”

“The NTTC position is that vigilance is very important throughout the tank truck industry,” Furth said. “The potential harm is huge. But our segment is one of the safest in trucking. We do 50,000 loads of gasoline daily. There has been no use of a tank truck in any terrorist attack since 9/11. There's never been a use of a tank truck in this country ever.”

Conley said the report reinforces his belief that the government's ulterior motive is to justify a mandate for real-time tracking of trailers.

“I think that has always been the objective of some of the people in DC,” he said. “My humble opinion is, that's good for some. One size doesn't fit all in security or anything else. It'd be easy to discount (the report) and to say, ‘It'll go on the shelf and never come back again.’ If and when something happens … it's a living document. It doesn't really call on us to do anything. They do say there are certain things they couldn't put in the report due to security sensitivity. We just have to keep doing what we're doing.”

Said Furth, “We already are worried about (the potential of terrorism) because we know about it. The bottom line is, we need to stay vigilant. We know what we're doing. Don't let any unauthorized person in the truck.”

InfraGard Program

Bulk Transportation's Andrew Woods addressed the need for tank truck carriers to play an active role in identifying security threats. One option for involvement is InfraGard, a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the public and private industry. It includes business executives, entrepreneurs, military and government officials, computer professionals, academia, state and local law enforcement, and concerned citizens. It encourages sharing information between the government and the private sector for the purpose of detecting national security threats.

InfraGard began in 1996 in the Cleveland Field Office as an effort to gain support from the Information Technology (IT) industry and academia for the FBI's investigative efforts in the cyber arena. In 1998, the FBI assigned national program responsibility for InfraGard to the National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC), and it was assigned to the Cyber Division in 2003.

There is two-way information flow between InfraGard and the FBI with the goal of protecting the nation's critical infrastructures. InfraGard comprises local chapters called InfraGard Members Alliance (IMAs), which interact with a field office. Some states have only one, while others have as many as four. The local chapters report to a national organization called the InfraGard National Members Alliance (INMA)

The FBI provides vetting for membership, a secure infrastructure, and Law Enforcement Sensitive (LES) intel products, and is a conduit for investigations.

Infragard chapters are self-governing, identify Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), provide non-government intelligence, liaise with other government agencies, and engage in marketing/fundraising and education.

InfraGard uses a secure Web Site to communicate with members (www.InfraGard.org). The site contains DHS threat alerts, warnings, vulnerabilities, and intelligence bulletins. FBI agents are assigned to each chapter, bringing meaningful news and information.

Program mission and goals are to share information to reduce threats and vulnerabilities to critical infrastructures and to develop and support a partnership with InfraGard members and the FBI to support all FBI investigative programs.

To become an Infragard member, applicants: must be a US citizen; be able to pass an FBI background check; consent to a criminal background check re-certification; notify the FBI of any pending civil/criminal matters; and sign and adhere to a confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement. Nationally, there are over 24,000 members in 86 InfraGard chapters.

To apply, visit the public Web site (www.infragard.net), click on “Become A Member,” fill out the application in a writable PDF format and either mail it to your local FBI Field Office or bring it to your chapter coordinator.
About the Author

Rick Weber | Associate Editor

Rick Weber has been an associate editor for Trailer/Body Builders since February 2000. A national award-winning sportswriter, he covered the Miami Dolphins for the Fort Myers News-Press following service with publications in California and Australia. He is a graduate of Penn State University.