Death of bin Laden puts officials on alert
Shortly after the death of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in a U.S. military raid in Pakistan, the terrorist organization threatened to exact revenge. Also, specific data recovered in the raid revealed some plans for attacks on the U.S. on or around the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. In response, local and state government emergency managers are being extra alert.
While the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) did not raise the National Terrorism Advisory System threat level, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a statement that the department would continue to respond to the “evolving threat picture.” Meanwhile, the Lexington, Ky.-based National Emergency Management Association (NEMA) issued its own alert to members. “While we’re not at a heightened alert, there is the potential for retribution, and folks need to, as always, have a little more heightened awareness of their surroundings. If you see something, say something,” says David Maxwell, NEMA immediate past president, director of the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management and the state’s Homeland Security advisor.
In Freeport, Texas — home to several possible terror attack targets, including the nation’s fourth largest oil reserve, a major port and 29 major chemical companies — law enforcement officers have been “vigilantly observing” for potential threats, says Police Chief Tyrone Morrow. The city also is using the heightened awareness to garner more support from local at-risk industries for a new wireless video surveillance system the city is installing. “These chemical companies, the port and the strategic reserve, when those levels are changed, they have additional security responsibilities that are mandated on them by the federal government,” Morrow says. “By helping us implement this plan, we can use technology to be a force multiplier to help them meet some of those mandated federal requirements without adding additional staff.”
While bin Laden’s death may be the beginning of the end for his particular terror organization, Maxwell expects threats will continue, both from external forces and domestic terror groups, he says. “I don’t see us ever really stepping down,” Maxwell says. “I think this is the new normal. I don’t see the threat going away any time in the foreseeable future.”