AUGUST 01, 2012
In a staggering move, the Obama Administration has caved in to the demands of big labor, quietly abandoning a crucial plan to secure the nation’s vulnerable chemical plants from terrorists.
It’s a story unlikely to appear in the mainstream media though it concerns every U.S. resident, especially those living near the 300-plus chemical plants in large population centers. In all, there are around 15,000 plants in the U.S. that store, produce or process toxic chemicals that could wipe out chunks of a major city.
After the 2001 Al Qaeda attacks, security experts determined that the facilities were extremely susceptible to terrorism since all it takes is the release of a cloud of toxic fumes to cause serious damage. This inspired the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to create a plan to screen employees at chemical plants for potential ties to terrorism as well as individuals who enter the facility on business.
The measure required companies to submit the names, birth place, passport or visa information of all workers and visitors with access to restricted areas of their plants. DHS would then check the data against the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Database. Sounds simple enough and well worth it to protect the country. So why hasn’t it been implemented, more than a decade after the worst terrorist attack in history?
Labor unions and other politically-connected groups like the chemical industry association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce pressured the Obama Administration to kill the measure, according to a news website that covers government. They claim the checks could invade workers’ privacy and that the names of innocent employees likely would appear on the terrorist watch list. This argument is similar to the one used by the open borders movement to get rid of a federal database that allows employers to check workers’ immigration status.
Like the open borders lobby, these groups assert this would constitute discrimination. In fact, in an April 2012 letter to the DHS official in charge of the new regulation, the groups play the race card in strongly urging the security checks get nixed. The letter cites “disparate impact under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964” when an employer uses information obtained during applicant and employee background checks.
This leaves us with a loaded question asked by the web site the broke the story; how will the DHS move forward with the task of implementing its struggling chemical security program? Don’t hold your breath for an answer. The agency refused to provide an explanation for why it had withdrawn its original plan to screen people with access to dangerous facilities. It’s likely the administration doesn’t even have a backup plan.
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