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High Profile Anti-Terror Drills Target Public Opinion, Terrorism Not so Much

By James Hufnagel

On Feb. 26, 1993, a bomb hidden in a van exploded underneath the World Trade Center in New York City, creating smoke, flames and debris, killing several people and injuring hundreds more.

Less than two years later, on Sept. 12, 1994, a Cessna 150L airplane crashed onto the south lawn of the White House, killing the pilot. The plane came to rest at the base of the building, its crumpled and twisted wreck bearing mute testimony to a new and deadly terror tactic.

Unfortunately, government agencies responsible for protecting the nation against surprise terrorist attacks failed to predict the where and how of the next strike, even though these tragic events of the 1990s foreshadowed the use of an airplane as a weapon and Al-Qaida's obsession with the tallest buildings in the country.

Now we are experiencing the same kind of head-in-the-sand, keep-your-fingers-crossed denial right in our own community courtesy of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, his Office of State Parks and NYPA.

Despite pointed public comments submitted by the city of Buffalo, Niagara University (which adjoins the facility), local emergency first responders and various citizen's groups during the relicensing of the Niagara Power Project at Lewiston, NY, the Robert Moses Parkway remains open. Unrestricted vehicular traffic is allowed to traverse vital areas of the vast hydropower-generating facility 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, rendering it vulnerable to terrorist attack.

For any who think the concrete of the Power Project, supposedly "hardened" in the months following 9/11, is impenetrable to a bomb exploded over the plant's critical components, consider this: The Oklahoma City bomb created by home-grown terrorist Timothy McVeigh, who incidentally grew up and attended school in the small Niagara County town of Pendleton, a stone's throw from the Niagara Power Project, was crude in its construction, using bulk materials. In fact, halfway through bomb construction, McVeigh ran out of a key ingredient, considerably diminishing its subsequent yield. Nevertheless, the bomb carved a crater out of concrete 20 feet in diameter and over 8 feet deep.

Not only does the Moses Parkway expose the Niagara Power Project to terrorist attack by international terrorists such as those who recently attempted to blow up a Niagara Falls bridge and passenger train, but also domestic terrorists like McVeigh or a similarly demented malcontent who gets it in his head to load a pick-up truck with explosives and write their own sordid chapter in history.

It may have been a coincidence, but one week after this dangerous situation was brought to the public's attention in the Sept. 10 issue of the Reporter, the Rainbow bridge, which connects the US to Canada at Niagara Falls, was shut down during morning rush hour so that no fewer than ten mostly state and local border and police agencies could conduct what was called an "international emergency preparedness exercise." "Don't be alarmed by those helicopters overhead" reassured the Gazette, "and the heavy presence of security personnel at the Rainbow Bridge this morning."

And while some might attribute it to pure chance, it was also announced last week, shortly after our story ran, that Buffalo Niagara Airport will be serving (over the weekend) as the scene of a "field training exercise" by first responders and law enforcement, practicing responses to a bomb incident on an incoming flight. According to the Buffalo News, "Officials say the public shouldn't be alarmed by emergency vehicles converging at the airport during the drill."

Then there was the heartwarming story headlined last week in the Niagara Gazette about the grandmother who was reported to be suspiciously cruising around the gates of the Niagara Falls Air Force Base. When law enforcement tracked her down and questioned her, it turned out she had been innocently keeping tabs on her granddaughter, who lived nearby. Only the most cynical would wonder how it happened that this trivial incident gained prominent local media play simultaneously with the closely-timed and well-publicized drills by first responders at the Rainbow Bridge and Buffalo Niagara Airport.

Terrorists prefer anniversaries of attacks because of their symbolic value. The Benghazi attack took place on the anniversary of 9/11. Therefore, the logical question that should be posed to the Cuomo administration is, why were the security drills at the airport and Rainbow Bridge not performed during the run-up to 9/11, when they would have had the maximum deterrent effect on terrorist attack, instead of the week after? Could it have been because the drills had little to do with actual preparedness, and had everything to do with reassuring the public in the wake of our Sept. 10 story?



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

SEP 24, 2013