By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Among the most hellish scenarios for terrorist catastrophes in New York would involve saboteurs blowing up one of the nearby chemical plants across the river in New Jersey. Prevailing westerly winds would waft the toxins across the Hudson over a helpless Manhattan. Next to bioterrorism, reported the U.S. Surgeon General, chemical emissions would be the worst possible eventuality in a terrorist attack. There are 120 major chemical plants in the U.S., each one potentially threatening the lives of a million people. A government investigation reports that their safety precautions run from "fair to poor." "Worst-case scenarios" filed with the Environmental Protection Agency reveal just how devastating this could be—one plant in New Jersey could emit enough toxic chemicals to poison 12 million people.
Even without a terrorist strike, toxic releases pose a horrendous problem in the U.S., with 600,000 accidents reported over the past decade.
The passage of the Homeland Security Act actually has made it harder to protect ourselves against such potentially deadly accidents. That's because the new laws prevent citizens from investigating the chemical industry's operations under the Freedom of Information Act or through government whistle-blowers who discover and report a danger. Under the new set of laws, they will lose their jobs if they blow the whistle.
Terrorists are well aware of the possibilities. Just 10 days after the planes hit the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, a huge explosion rocked the area near Toulouse in southern France, killing 30 people and injuring many others. At first, authorities laid the blame on faulty equipment in the plant. More recently, French publications have unearthed a classified memo from France's supersecret spook bureau, the Renseignements Généraux, an equivalent to our National Security Agency, that instead points to a network of Islamic terrorists. The plot supposedly stretches its tentacles to Pakistan and Afghanistan in the east, a hidden base in London, and a pot of money in New York, according to investigations by Le Figaro and L'Express. Whether any of this goes anywhere is hard to know, but it has created something of a sensation in Paris. So far, neither hypothesis—of an accident or of a terror attack—has been completely discounted.JESUS WEPT
The database has other uses, of course, as a tool in deciding whether to hire or fire someone, issue a security clearance, make a grant, give a license. The applicants will never know they are being scrutinized through this secret system.GIS GET JIGGY IN BISHKEK
Military authorities say coalition troops are forbidden from frequenting prostitutes. "It is completely out of the question," said Elizabeth Orkiz, a public-relations spokesperson at the air base in Bishkek. "American military men know that they cannot do this, and they will be held responsible for any infringement of army regulations. They are authorized to visit the city only for cultural events such as theater, shopping and cinema—or for official visits."Additional reporting by Sandra Bisin, Rebecca Winsor, Josh Saltzman and Phoebe St. John.