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Context of 'February 6, 2002: CIA’s Tenet Worried over Possible Terrorist Attack on Chemical Facility'

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The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry issues a report on the safety of the US’s chemical industry from terror attacks. The report finds that security of American chemical plants ranges from “fair” to “very poor.” Security for chemical shipments is “poor to non-existent.” (Roberts 2008, pp. 92-93)

A RAND Corporation study finds that an attack on American chemical facilities (see April 1999) would be one of the simplest and most effective methods for potential terrorists to inflict harm on large numbers of people. Congress directs the Justice Department to conduct a study on the vulnerability of chemical plants to criminal and terrorist attacks, but the department, citing funding shortfalls, fails to complete the report. (Roberts 2008, pp. 93)

The Army’s Surgeon General, Admiral David Satcher, estimates that a terrorist assault on a US chemical plant (see April 1999 and December 1999) might kill or injure as many as 2.4 million people, a figure far higher than previous estimates. (Roberts 2008, pp. 93)

CIA Director George Tenet tells the Senate Intelligence Committee that one of the agency’s “highest concerns” is a terrorist attack on an American chemical facility (see Late September 2001). (Roberts 2008, pp. 93)

Congressional Republicans thwart an attempt to expand the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)‘s ability to compel chemical facilities to prepare contingency plans for terrorist attacks (see December 1999 and Late September 2001). The 1990 Clean Air Act (CAA) allows the agency to force plants to plan for potentially calamitous accidents, and environmentalists and national security advocates argue that the CAA could easily be used in regards to having plants prepare for terrorist attacks. However, Republicans in Congress resist the idea. The EPA is unpopular among conservatives—Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) has called the agency a “Gestapo bureaucracy,” and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) has called it “the Gestapo of government”—and, along with industry representatives and lobbyists, the Republicans successfully persuade the EPA not to, in the agency’s words, “push the envelope” in interpreting the CAA. (Roberts 2008, pp. 93)

Democratic Senators on the Senate Armed Services Committee accuse CIA Director George Tenet of sabotaging the weapons inspections by refusing to supply the inspectors with the intelligence they need to do their work. (Buncombe 2/14/2003) Senator Carl Levin tells the Washington Post that according to declassified letters he has obtained from the CIA, dated Jan. 24 and Jan. 28, the agency has not provided inspectors with information about a “large number of sites of significant value.” Furthermore, the senator charges, the letters contradict on-the-record statements made by Tenet who on February 11 claimed that the US had provided inspectors with all the information it had concerning “high value and moderate value sites.” Commenting on this, he says, “When they’ve taken the position that inspections are useless, they are bound to fail,” adding, “We have undermined the inspectors since the beginning.” (Priest and Pincus 2/13/2003; Buncombe 2/14/2003) Tenet will later acknowledge to Senator Levin—after the US invasion of Iraq—that his comments were not entirely accurate. (Jehl and Sanger 2/21/2004)

The day after CIA Director George Tenet received a CIA assessment finding the Iraq-Niger uranium claims specious (see June 17, 2003), CIA official Robert Walpole, the national intelligence officer for strategic and nuclear programs, briefs members of the Senate Intelligence Committee on the assessment. The next day, Walpole briefs members of the House Intelligence Committee. (Waas 2/2/2006)


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