North Dakota is best known for the Badlands, a dinosaur museum,
and its International Peace Garden.
But terrorism? Probably not.
Recently, however, Gov. John Hoeven named a homeland security
coordinator - a cabinet position - to determine how prepared the
state is for a terrorism attack.
In the wake of Sept. 11, many states, in their biggest security
effort ever, are rushing to set up task forces and planning groups
to uncover any glaring weaknesses. They are trying to determine if
they need new laws to prevent, for example, small planes from
towing advertising banners over football stadiums. And many are
setting up full-time cabinet-level security positions - a step
similar to President Bush's decision to make former Pennsylvania
Gov. Tom Ridge the US security czar.
"If a state hasn't done this, it should," says Raymond Kelly,
former head of the US Customs Service.
In fact, the federal government is not opposed to the state
efforts, since almost any response to a terrorist act is likely to
involve state and local officials before the FBI gets involved.
"The federal government is very responsive and helpful," says Gov.
Howard Dean of Vermont, which actually started its antiterrorism
preparations three years ago.
Some of the new state security czars have extensive antiterrorism
experience. For example, last week, New York Gov. George Pataki
appointed James Kallstrom to head up a new cabinet-level post, the
Office of Public Security. Mr. Kallstrom was formerly the assistant
director of the FBI's New York division. He is best known for his
investigation of the explosion aboard TWA's Flight 800.
Others have extensive military or state police experience. For
example, Missouri Gov. Bob Holden has appointed retired Army Col.
Timothy Daniel as special adviser for homeland security. In
Virginia, Gov. Jim Gilmore has appointed a 21-member preparedness
and security panel, chaired by M. Wayne Huggins, former
superintendent of the state police.
For many of the new security directors, the first order of
business is reviewing state readiness. For example, Kallstrom's
responsibilities include ensuring that the state is prepared to
respond to possible biological, chemical, or radiological terrorist
acts. Since New York has already had one anthrax incident at NBC
News and one hoax at The New York Times, he'll be able to evaluate
the state's and city's responses right away.
Vigilance in North Dakota
North Dakota's antiterrorism director has already had to respond
to one incident. Recently, someone broke into the water supply at
Pembina, which is located on the border with Canada. "Our folks
flew up there right away, shut off the water, got the National
Guard in, analyzed the material, and cleaned up and got the system
back on line," says Governor Hoeven. As it turned out, whatever was
in the water supply was not toxic.
Hoeven also notes that the state has two Air Force bases where B-
52s are loaded with nuclear bombs. "There have been incidents of
people going over the security fences," he says. "They've been
checked out, and they haven't been a problem so far."
Vermont is also trying to investigate suspicious events. …