Domestic US terrorist activity at highest level since 9/11

06 July 2011 16:07  [Source: ICIS news]

BALTIMORE, Maryland (ICIS)--Terrorist activity against the US homeland has reached its highest level since the major attacks in September 2001, a top US intelligence official said on Wednesday, noting that the nation’s chemicals sector remains a prime target.

Fernando Keller, senior intelligence officer at the office of intelligence and analysis in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), told chemicals industry security executives that the increasing involvement of home-grown US citizen extremists in terrorist activities “adds a layer of complexity for all of us responsible for protecting the nation”.

Speaking at the ninth annual Chemical Sector Security Summit, Keller said that attacks from or inspired by Al Qaeda continue to pose the greatest threat to the US homeland.

He cautioned that the 2 May 2011 killing of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden by US special forces has not substantially diminished the Al Qaeda threat and instead has already triggered retaliatory attacks, especially in Pakistan where bin Laden was finally found and killed.

But Keller said that intelligence gathered by US agencies and statements by terrorist leaders indicate that they want to make mass-casualties attacks in the US.

He said intelligence on terrorist planning suggests that favoured targets would be US mass transit facilities, including both aviation and passenger rail, government and military facilities and their personnel.

Also on terrorists’ top target lists, Keller said, was “economically important infrastructure in the US”, including chemical facilities.

He noted that in the past 24 months there has been a rash of domestic US attacks, beginning with the November 2009 attack at Fort Hood in Texas when US Army Major Nidal Hasan opened fire on his fellow soldiers, killing 13 and wounding 30 others.

That event was followed by five other terrorist attempts, all thwarted or otherwise unsuccessful, in Portland, Oregon; Dallas, Texas; Springfield, Illinois; New York City and Boston, Massachusetts.

In each case, Keller noted, the alleged attacker was, like Hasan, a US citizen who had been radicalized.

He emphasised that those involved in the chemicals sector should be on constant alert for unusual or suspicious behaviour.

As an example, he cited the arrest in February this year of 20-year-old Khalid Al Aldawasari, a Saudi Arabian student in Lubbock, Texas, who was accused of plotting to build chemical bombs and other devices to attack major infrastructure facilities.

Significantly, Keller said, Aldawasari’s alleged plot was uncovered by an alert chemicals supplier who spotted the student's unusual purchases of precursor chemicals over the Internet.

Keller warned that chemical production plants and other process industry facilities could be vulnerable to well-planned attacks by disgruntled employees, current or former, or by outsiders who bribe or terrorize facility employees to obtain insider information that would be critical to mounting an attack.

“There are those in the US who are fully capable of launching attacks against any of our 18 areas of critical infrastructure”, including the chemicals industry, he said.

Cosponsored by DHS, the Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA) and other industry associations in the Chemical Sector Co-ordinating Council, the security conference runs through Thursday.

By: Joe Kamalick
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