States Draft Themselves to Fight Terrorism

By Ron Scherer writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, October 16, 2001 | Go to article overview

States Draft Themselves to Fight Terrorism


Ron Scherer writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


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. …

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