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Washington Post Editorial: “Appalling” That Fed Agencies Unprepared for WMD Attack

terrorismBy The Washington Post
Editorial Page

WASHINGTON — “EVERYBODY WOULD be winging it.” That is how one law enforcement official described the likely Justice Department response to an attack involving weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).

The remark was included in a critical report by the department’s inspector general, which concluded that the department “is not prepared to fulfill its role . . . to ensure public safety and security in the event of a WMD incident,” including those involving biological, chemical or nuclear weapons.

The only Justice component to receive high marks was the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which the report noted had specific policies in place to deal with a WMD attack and routinely carried out WMD-specific training for agents and other personnel.

Not so the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Drug Enforcement Agency or the U.S. Marshals Service.

The ATF, for example, had been tapped to coordinate federal law enforcement’s response and its efforts to dovetail with local and state efforts in such matters as sealing off buildings and areas subject to WMD exposure. But the agency has no policies or training focused specifically on reacting to a WMD attack, and many officials within the Justice Department were not aware of the agency’s critical role nor had they worked with any other component, including the FBI, to coordinate efforts in the event of an attack.

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