Working secretly, a small group of individuals inside the United States was recently successful in identifying multiple suppliers of dangerous, highly radioactive material and securing their approval to ship the material to a shell company operating out of rented office space in a business park in Dallas.
The amount of material identified and ordered was more than sufficient for the building of a radiological dispersal device, or “dirty bomb," which could force the evacuation of the center of a major city and necessitate potential billions of dollars in cleanup work.
Fortunately, having identified the suppliers and secured all necessary approvals for the shipment of the radiological material the operatives in this case then did something real terrorists would likely never do. They turned themselves in, cancelled the orders and published the results of their work.
The entire exercise was run by personnel from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) as a test of United States government procedures for keeping radioactive material out of the wrong hands.
The fact that this test was failed so miserably was made all that much worse by the fact that nine years GAO ran exactly the same kind of operation, and with very little difficulty was able to produce precisely the same result.
In nine years none of the deficiencies identified in the 2007 operation had been rectified.
In the wake of the terrorist attacks on 9/11 the United States government created massive new bureaucracies, which were supposedly designed to enhance our security and prevent future terrorist attacks. Thousands of new positions were created at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security.
All across the Washington, D.C., area new buildings were constructed and filled with thousands of new hires, flat screen computer monitors and high-tech ops centers.
Along the way we generated massive amounts of new process and procedure, mandated the completion of endless numbers of new forms and promulgated mind-boggling numbers of new regulations.
What we did not do was focus very much attention at all on concrete, practical measures, which would actually make us safer and present real obstacles to terrorist activity. What we did not do was worry about results.
Fifteen years later we are paying the price. We are still in peril.
Passenger rail remains dangerously vulnerable. There have been multiple coordinated attacks on passenger rail across the globe. The threat is well known, real, and immediate.
A well-crafted attack on rail lines feeding into New York City at rush hour would kill or maim thousands and cripple the city. None of our current security measures are adequate to defend against such at threat.
One hundred million Americans live in proximity to chemical plants storing huge quantities of dangerous chemicals. From a terrorist perspective these are effectively prepositioned weapons of mass destruction.
Efforts to secure these chemical plants have been mired in bureaucracy for years and are still far behind schedule.
There are over a hundred commercial nuclear power plants in this country. Many of them are in or near heavily populated areas. The deliberate meltdown of a single reactor at one of these plants, which is much more easily done than most people realize, could force the evacuation of an entire metropolitan area.
That evacuation could conceivably last a generation.
Yet physical security at nuclear power plants has been inadequate for many, many years.
Red teams assigned to “assault” these facilities, even when heavily restricted in regard to armament and tactics, routinely seize nuclear facilities and simulate meltdowns. In the aftermath nothing changes, and the results of the exercise are ignored.
The number of bio labs working with dangerous pathogens has mushroomed in this country in recent years. Multiple reports have exposed massive security and safety issues with these labs. Efforts to address these issues have been half-hearted and painfully slow.
What was already a bad situation before Barack Obama took office has only been made worse by his refusal to recognize the nature of the threat we face and to demand results.
No meaningful effort has been undertaken to reform or restructure dysfunctional bureaucracies, to remove incompetent managers and leaders, or to streamline procedures.
Instead the bureaucracy has been left to muddle along, like some giant “self-licking ice cream cone," generating process and producing very little in the way of results.
PowerPoint presentations don’t catch terrorists. Hoping for the best is not a plan. We are face to face with men who adhere to a philosophy of pure evil and wish us nothing short of complete annihilation. GAO just informed us that we failed yet another test. We cannot afford to continue to do so.
Charles S. Faddis, president of Orion Strategic Services, LLC, is a former CIA operations officer with 20 years of experience in the conduct of intelligence operations. He is the senior intelligence editor for AND Magazine and a contributor to a wide variety of counterterrorism and homeland security journals. He is author of "Operation Hotel California." For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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