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Old 07-12-2006, 08:29 AM   #1 (permalink)
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U.S. Terror Targets - NY Times article

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/12/wa...assets.html?_r

hope the link is correct.

July 12, 2006
U.S. Terror Targets: Petting Zoo and Flea Market?
By ERIC LIPTON

WASHINGTON, July 11 — It reads like a tally of terrorist targets that a child might have written: Old MacDonald’s Petting Zoo, the Amish Country Popcorn factory, the Mule Day Parade, the Sweetwater Flea Market and an unspecified “Beach at End of a Street.”

But the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security, in a report released Tuesday, found that the list was not child’s play: all these “unusual or out-of-place” sites “whose criticality is not readily apparent” are inexplicably included in the federal antiterrorism database.

The National Asset Database, as it is known, is so flawed, the inspector general found, that as of January, Indiana, with 8,591 potential terrorist targets, had 50 percent more listed sites than New York (5,687) and more than twice as many as California (3,212), ranking the state the most target-rich place in the nation.

The database is used by the Homeland Security Department to help divvy up the hundreds of millions of dollars in antiterrorism grants each year, including the program announced in May that cut money to New York City and Washington by 40 percent, while significantly increasing spending for cities including Louisville, Ky., and Omaha.

“We don’t find it embarrassing,” said the department’s deputy press secretary, Jarrod Agen. “The list is a valuable tool.”

But the audit says that lower-level department officials agreed that some older information in the inventory “was of low quality and that they had little faith in it.”

“The presence of large numbers of out-of-place assets taints the credibility of the data,” the report says.

In addition to the petting zoo, in Woodville, Ala., and the Mule Day Parade in Columbia, Tenn., the auditors questioned many entries, including “Nix’s Check Cashing,” “Mall at Sears,” “Ice Cream Parlor,” “Tackle Shop,” “Donut Shop,” “Anti-Cruelty Society” and “Bean Fest.”

Even people connected to some of those businesses or events are baffled at their inclusion as possible terrorist targets.

“Seems like someone has gone overboard,” said Larry Buss, who helps organize the Apple and Pork Festival in Clinton, Ill. “Their time could be spent better doing other things, like providing security for the country.”

Angela McNabb, manager of the Sweetwater Flea Market, which is 50 miles from Knoxville, Tenn., said: “I don’t know where they get their information. We are talking about a flea market here.”

New York City officials, who have questioned the rationale for the reduction in this year’s antiterrorism grants, were similarly blunt.

“Now we know why the Homeland Security grant formula came out as wacky as it was,” Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said Tuesday. “This report is the smoking gun that thoroughly indicts the system.”

The source of the problems, the audit said, appears to be insufficient definitions or standards for inclusion provided to the states, which submit lists of locations for the database.

New York, for example, lists only 2 percent of the nation’s banking and finance sector assets, which ranks it between North Dakota and Missouri. Washington State lists nearly twice as many national monuments and icons as the District of Columbia.

Montana, one of the least populous states in the nation, turned up with far more assets than big-population states including Massachusetts, North Carolina and New Jersey.

The inspector general questions whether many of the sites listed in whole categories — like the 1,305 casinos, 163 water parks, 159 cruise ships, 244 jails, 3,773 malls, 718 mortuaries and 571 nursing homes — should even be included in the tally.

But the report also notes that the list “may have too few assets in essential areas.” It apparently does not include many major business and finance operations or critical national telecommunications hubs.

The department does not release the list of 77,069 sites, but the report said that as of January it included 17,327 commercial properties like office buildings, malls and shopping centers, 12,019 government facilities, 8,402 public health buildings, 7,889 power plants and 2,963 sites with chemical or hazardous materials.

George W. Foresman, the department’s under secretary for preparedness, said the audit misunderstood the purpose of the database, as it was an inventory or catalog of national assets, not a prioritized list of the most critical sites.The database is just one of many sources consulted in deciding antiterrorism grants.

The inspector general recommends that the department review the list and determine which of the “extremely insignificant” assets that have been included should remain and provide better guidance to states on what to submit in the future.

Mr. Agen, the Homeland Security Department spokesman, said that he agreed that his agency should provide better directions for the states and that it would do so in the future.

One business owner who learned from a reporter that a company named Amish Country Popcorn was on the list was at first puzzled. The businessman, Brian Lehman, said he owned the only operation in the country with that name.

“I am out in the middle of nowhere,” said Mr. Lehman, whose business in Berne, Ind., has five employees and grows and distributes popcorn. “We are nothing but a bunch of Amish buggies and tractors out here. No one would care.”

But on second thought, he came up with an explanation: “Maybe because popcorn explodes?”
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My thinking (not so deep, I'll admit):
1) the flaw is the states report the data. The states want as much money as they can get.
2) No one is acountable for the data.
3) The desire to harm others. (business reasons)

Jump in, the water's fine.

What else could be the reason for so much wrong data.
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Old 07-12-2006, 08:58 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by From the article
George W. Foresman, the department’s under secretary for preparedness, said the audit misunderstood the purpose of the database, as it was an inventory or catalog of national assets, not a prioritized list of the most critical sites.The database is just one of many sources consulted in deciding antiterrorism grants.
I think this a crucial point. If this had anything to do with the distribution of anti-terror funding, then the problem is with how the list is used, not that the list exists. Not that I'm trying to defend using resources to compile lists of insignificant trivia, but from the way I read this article and others, this list is merely the source from which the useful lists are generated.

Besides, if this was the basis for making important resource distribution decisions, I'd like to know who read those items and decided to include them. Even in systemic errors, the ultimate fault lies with people.
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Old 07-12-2006, 09:18 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I, for one, am shocked, shocked! and offended that the new york times would report on the existence of such a database. Clearly the terrorists are now aware that the u.s. government is actively trying to thwart their evil goals.

Last edited by filtherton; 07-12-2006 at 10:08 AM..
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Old 07-12-2006, 09:30 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I have to wonder what the validity is of a list like this. We keep getting fed "leaked" information about where and how the terrorists might strike, leading to more and more widespread fear. Why would a terrorist who hates the US government for killing innocent civilians want to strike a point with no political or military significance? One would assume that the terrorists would do this either because they "hate freedom", or because they want to shock us into believing that nowhere is safe. The problem is that doesn't fit the MO. Terrorist plots have targeted very high visibility places like metropolitan areas, or military targets like battleships. Even domestic terrorists, like Tim McVey, hit government buildings. This is meant to send a clear message that they hate, or at least seriously dissaprove of, the govnernment. As a matter of fact, Osama Bin Laden has voiced his opinion that the American civilians are simply out of touch, and are not his targets. He wants people to understand that he intends to hurt the government, and maybe some people will ask why he would do such a thing.

I will still go to zoos, popcorn factories (wtf?!), and parades with no fear from terrorism.
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Old 07-12-2006, 09:47 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Everytime I hear about a terror plot, my first question is what is Bush's poll numbers. Honestly I dont believe any of it. This one on the other hand is a little puzzling, cause we always hear they could strike at any time, but make sure that you ride fairwheel and blow all of your hard earn dough at the mall. This kinda goes against that what we have been fed the last five years.

I just hope they don't hit the popcorn factory, I love Lancaster County, PA
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Old 07-19-2006, 09:18 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I think the terror is very real and the u.s. government has definately got their hands full keeping horrible disasters like 9-11 happening on a daily basis. Its a scary thought, but we americans are out of touch, pampered to a point, and largely rely and expect homeland security to keep all the danger at bay. For the most part, they have done an excelllent job.

And mentioning that, I have to add that it really peeves me that people go and complain that the money spent on homeland security could have been used better elsewhere simply because nothing has happenned to produce proof of the necessity of these funds.
In this case, absolutely nothing is the proof.
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Old 07-19-2006, 09:29 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by absence_of_color
I think the terror is very real and the u.s. government has definately got their hands full keeping horrible disasters like 9-11 happening on a daily basis. Its a scary thought, but we americans are out of touch, pampered to a point, and largely rely and expect homeland security to keep all the danger at bay. For the most part, they have done an excelllent job.
Yes, but how do we know? It's all been super-dooper classified. The only people that do know won't way anything. Yes, they could be doing an excellent job. Yes, they could be doing a horrible job. We simply don't know. We don't know how many terrorist attacks are atempted. We don't know how many, if any, have been prevented. We're in the dark.


Also, the only reason we are out of touch is the amazing secrecy that the government insists on. The problem with that is that we vote for officials that we have no idea what they're doing. Rather odd, consdering that we live under a representative republic.
Quote:
Originally Posted by absence_of_color
And mentioning that, I have to add that it really peeves me that people go and complain that the money spent on homeland security could have been used better elsewhere simply because nothing has happenned to produce proof of the necessity of these funds.
In this case, absolutely nothing is the proof.
Actually, most people on the liberal side of this are worried about how we can afford do pay $400 billion in Iraq when our country is already deep in debt. We all want to be safe at home, conservative and liberal alike. Not wanting to speak for everyone, I certianally understand the need for some spending on defence. "Absolutely nothing" isn't really proof, though.
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Old 07-19-2006, 10:02 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I understand your point, but homeland security funds are spent to prevent anything from happenning, and wouldnt you consider having "absolutely nothing" happen to fit largely in the proof department?

Yeah, everything IS kept secret. So secret its scary. I would like to think because its just better that way. Americans spend a lot of their time protesting things that doesnt fit nicely into their daily regimen or way of life, and terrorists attempts is something that would have alot of citizens up in arms. I am glad that is kept top secret, I worry enough about it allready.
I do feel guilty for feeling that way considering a huge percentage of the worlds population live day to day in unsafe environments where something could and does go wrong very close to home almost every day.
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Old 07-20-2006, 04:48 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by absence_of_color
I understand your point, but homeland security funds are spent to prevent anything from happenning, and wouldnt you consider having "absolutely nothing" happen to fit largely in the proof department?
Unfortunately, your logic is inherently flawed here. If I use your same logic, the fact that the government spends billions of dollars on keeping illegal drugs out of the country means that there aren't any here. Those guys on the corners on the South Side of Chicago are just hanging out, looking for a good game of stickball or maybe for the Good Humor man to come on by.

Look, I agree that Homeland Security is doing an adequate job. Excellent? Not so much since they're managing to harrass the rest of us while keeping us "safe". They may (or may not) have foiled some plots in the planning stages, but since none of these folks have ever gone to trial (at least the post-9/11 ones), it's kind of hard to see announcements as proof. Maybe the Canadian cell was a group ready to wreck havok, but then again maybe it was just some idle online chitchat. That remains to be seen. Personally I think that absence of a follow-up attack means some combination of 1) none was planned, 2) the jihadists were incompetent, 3) Homeland Security disrupted a crucial portion of a plot either through arrests or holding up communications/funding or 4) the military has harrassed the planners overseas to the point where they can't get a cohesive plan into action.

Quote:
Originally Posted by absence_of_color
Yeah, everything IS kept secret. So secret its scary. I would like to think because its just better that way. Americans spend a lot of their time protesting things that doesnt fit nicely into their daily regimen or way of life, and terrorists attempts is something that would have alot of citizens up in arms. I am glad that is kept top secret, I worry enough about it allready.
I do feel guilty for feeling that way considering a huge percentage of the worlds population live day to day in unsafe environments where something could and does go wrong very close to home almost every day.
We all live with uncertainty and in an unsafe environment. An infant in a stroller was killed by a car a block from my house 3 weeks ago. Granted, some parts of the world live under the threat of violence, but so do a large percentage of Americans. Look in any concentration of urban poverty, and you'll find horrific amounts of violence both on the streets and in the home. Personally, I think that there needs to be more oversight on Homeland Security and exactly what they're doing. Even at these early stages of their existance, they're showing a troubling habit of trampling our Constitutional rights. I'm not saying that the Average Joe needs to be aware of HS's every move, but those in Congress certainly need to be kept better informed.
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