Inspector: Homeland Security database flawed
July 12, 2006 10:50 AM   Subscribe

Homeland Security Ranks Indiana As State With Most Terror Targets

The Homeland Security's National Asset Data Base [PDF] of vulnerable critical infrastructure and key resources "reads like a tally of terrorist targets that a child might have written: Old MacDonald’s Petting Zoo, the Amish Country Popcorn factory, the Mule Day Parade, the Sweetwater Flea Market and an unspecified 'Beach at End of a Street.'" The report noted that Indiana has 8,591 assets listed in the database — more than any other state and 50 percent more than New York. New York had 5,687 listed. Inspector General Richard Skinner finds that the database "is too faulty to accurately help divide federal funds to states and cities."
posted by ericb (66 comments total)
 
I'd hit it.
posted by psmealey at 10:54 AM on July 12, 2006


The Amish can have factories now?

But seriously though, people just view this as a way to get pork for their state. The DHS is so broken it's absurd.
posted by delmoi at 10:55 AM on July 12, 2006


i can explain this with one word

pork
posted by pyramid termite at 10:56 AM on July 12, 2006


I did read that the Sweetwater Flea Market was considered as an alternate to the WTC, you know, attacking major centers of commerce and such.
posted by tetsuo at 10:56 AM on July 12, 2006


The terrorists hate us for our petting zoos. (Mostly the ones with pigs and dogs.)
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:57 AM on July 12, 2006 [2 favorites]


Growing up in Northwest Indiana, we were constantly reminded that if the terrorists (actually I think when I was very young it was still the Soviets, or some other wants-to-lob-ICBMs-at-us entity) were to strike America, the first thing they would do would be bomb our all-important steel mills. After traveling around a little bit, I heard different variations of this story from people hailing from different parts of America, and came to the conclusion that everybody wants to be from some place important enough to bomb.
posted by kaytwo at 10:58 AM on July 12, 2006


Note to self: stay away Indiana. Especially on Mule Day.
posted by Gilbert at 11:00 AM on July 12, 2006


Definately pork and politics at play here.

However, one way to cause fear and havoc would be to strike a one-stoplight town in the midwest, thus signalling that terrorists can strike anywhere, anytime.
posted by ericb at 11:02 AM on July 12, 2006


*Definitely*
posted by ericb at 11:03 AM on July 12, 2006


ericb, why do you hate freedom?
posted by tula at 11:07 AM on July 12, 2006


I'm certainly not going to argue that the United States government isn't corrupt, but the notion that Indiana has more terrorist targets than NYC is not, sight unseen, ridiculous. Indiana also has more nuclear power plants than anywhere else in the United States, and a large number of systempunkts that are high-yield and easy to attack. As John Robb wrote today:

As anticipated, this attack is also a sign that future attacks will increasingly target systems rather than low yield targets of symbolic terrorism. As methods of system disruption improve, attacks will be aimed at more precise systempunkts that underly modern economic activity...

Robb agrees that most of those are in urban areas, but I can see a lot of potential in a place like Indiana, that's only made more attractive by the fact that it's so largely unanticipated.

That said, the list of targets in Indiana that they mention is pretty pathetic.
posted by jefgodesky at 11:12 AM on July 12, 2006


everybody wants to be from some place important enough to bomb.

When we were kids, we figured that, being an epicentre of the oil industry, Edmonton was going to be the first on the Soviets' list of targets.

Yeah, the Edmonton in Canada. We were very young.
posted by Zozo at 11:12 AM on July 12, 2006


Yeah, in Halifax it's the ice-free port.
posted by joannemerriam at 11:16 AM on July 12, 2006


When I was a kid we knew that wailing sirens meant an imminent nuclear attack from the Ruskies. I grew up in Jersey, UK.
posted by ob at 11:17 AM on July 12, 2006


I grew up right beside the underground pentagon, 30 miles from camp david and 60 miles from washington dc. now I live in downtown New York City. Get your popcorn factories off my list.
posted by n9 at 11:19 AM on July 12, 2006


41 Locations are supposedly more likely to be hit than D.C.
posted by noble_rot at 11:19 AM on July 12, 2006


According to this page from the Dept. of Energy, Indiana doesn't have any nuclear reactors. Perhaps you were thinking of Illinois, which has 6 plants and 11 reactors.
posted by borkencode at 11:23 AM on July 12, 2006


41 Locations are supposedly more likely to be hit than D.C.

Well that certainly makes sense. Out of the six targets attacked in the last decade of domestic terrorism only 1/3 of them were in Washington, DC, so I can see how it would come up low in the list.
posted by n9 at 11:26 AM on July 12, 2006


We should blow up everything on that list ourselves jusst on general principles.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:27 AM on July 12, 2006


Wait. Wait. Y'all got to think like one of the terreristsss.

They gots to see that blowd up blue staters just generates a wave of pussy whining and not much else.

You got t' blowd up some midwestern salt-of-the-earth type farmers to generate REAL panic and bring the western devil to his knees.

After all the midwest is the solarp lexus of the nation. The HEARTLAND.

Yeah. New York is the Brain Pan. And LA is the groin. But as the President has pointed out "Thinking don't win no wars. It takes guts!"

You got to hit 'em in the guts. Body shot. Body shot!
posted by tkchrist at 11:27 AM on July 12, 2006


If only someone would nuke Indiana...
posted by Thorzdad at 11:28 AM on July 12, 2006


"“Seems like someone has gone overboard,” said Larry Buss, who helps organize the Apple and Pork Festival in Clinton, Ill."

heh heh...pork festival.

They probably use the Amish in the popcorn factory because they don't know about bronchiolitis obliterans reported by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health as a butter flavoring lung injury (a componant of buttery flavoring is diacetyl). Anyway, there's a Cowboy poetry gathering in Elko, Nevada that needs protection, not to mention the International pancake races in Liberal, Kansas (although...liberal...)l, but if no one attacks Uff-Da day in Rutland, ND, I'll feel safer.
/That the terrorists hitting the (economically valuable) towers a bit early 'cause of the plane schedule and not killing way more people...
posted by Smedleyman at 11:29 AM on July 12, 2006


Indiana is where the US Army is disposing of it's chemical weapons. It's also the home of some really nasty chemical and plastics plants, as well as the abovementioned nuclear facilities and "systempunkts."

Still, as a most-of-my-life resident of the state, the idea that it would be a prime target for Islamic terrorists of the Al-Qaeda bent is a bit mystifying. Frankly, I'd think they'd find it very, very hard to not draw suspicion to themselves.
posted by moonbiter at 11:30 AM on July 12, 2006


What we need is a new federal holiday to celebrate Terror. Everyone in the country gets the day off of work, in order that he or she may stay home and weep softly in the corner. And a fat man named Terror Claus kicks in front doors at random and shouts "Boo!"

Terror! Terror terror terror! Long live the zeitgeist!

And exclamation points!
posted by milquetoast at 11:31 AM on July 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


What, no "Pork" and "batshitinsane" tags?
posted by Artw at 11:43 AM on July 12, 2006


Ah, I spoke too soon, it has "GovernmentPork" as a tag.
posted by Artw at 11:45 AM on July 12, 2006


"... if no one attacks Uff-Da day in Rutland, ND, I'll feel safer."

What really terrorizes me is that I know exactly where that's at without looking at a map.
posted by nathan_teske at 11:51 AM on July 12, 2006


And Wisconsin's #2!

MIDWEST REPRESENTIN!
posted by rocketman at 11:57 AM on July 12, 2006


'Indiana is where the US Army is disposing of it's chemical weapons.'

One of the places, yeah.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 12:00 PM on July 12, 2006



I'm sure Osama's people lie awake at night in a silent fury, vowing to smite the revolting infidel spectacle, the insult to the honor of dar-el-Islam, that is the Mule Day parade.
posted by jason's_planet at 12:02 PM on July 12, 2006


i am staying the FUCK away from beaches at the end of streets from now on!!!!
posted by StrasbourgSecaucus at 12:05 PM on July 12, 2006


Yup. Because exactly what a terrorist is going for is "hey, they blew up a whasmit in Whuchmit, Heartland."

"A what, where?"

Yup, that's it exactly.

Fucking idiots abound.

I'm sure the constituents eat it up -- they not only get the pork of the DHS, they get to feel important, because the "terrorists would hit them first."

I'd like a new reality, thanks.
posted by teece at 12:11 PM on July 12, 2006


Hoosier daddy?

It's like that scene from Fahrenheit 9/11 [WMV ] where there's a terror alert for Tappahannock, Virginia, because it gets mistaken for Rappahannock. "We have a Wal-Mart."
posted by kirkaracha at 12:21 PM on July 12, 2006


Growing up in Maryland, about 4 miles from DC, during the 1st Gulf War, we were told that it was too dangerous to go on field trips to museums or government buildings, as Saddam may want to bomb them. Really it was just budget cuts.
posted by sarahnade at 12:57 PM on July 12, 2006


Well, being from Bloomington in southern Indiana, I can certainly see the potential we have for being victims of terror. We have lake with a boat ramp south of town.. and a Wal-Mart too...
posted by Raoul.Duke at 1:01 PM on July 12, 2006


"Hoosier daddy?"

If you're going after the "Houellebecq Girls" Prize, you're gonna have to do a damnsight better than that, kirkaracha.

...

When I was a kid we moved to a remote town in Maine. One of the reasons given by my parental unit was to get away from the New York City area (we lived about 20 miles out), so as not to be vaporized immediately when the Russians nuked it... so we moved out to the middle of nowhere.

Except that "Nowhere" happened to be less than 10 miles from a US Navy radio installation that at the time was the primary facility for communications with our SLBM-armed submarines, and thus would have been one of the first targets hit in a first-strike attack, and with multiple high-yield hydrogen bombs, most likely, just to make sure.

Mmm hm. Good idea there, parental unit!

At least that was a legitimate target to worry about. The boat ramp and the hog show? Suuuuuuuuuuure. Right.
posted by zoogleplex at 1:08 PM on July 12, 2006


Metafilter: the solarp lexus of the nation.

(I just really like that typo. It looks almost like there might be something that is actually a 'solarp lexus'.)
posted by mephron at 1:26 PM on July 12, 2006


I like the Daily Show but I think it's a major waste of taxpayer's money to have an entire department of government dedicated to writing material for it.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 2:21 PM on July 12, 2006 [3 favorites]


The national asset database is a joke. Three years ago it was too small, so the DHS went to the states twice to ask them to fill in those troublesome data gaps-- and the states gave them crap (or as the report states, "unusual and out-of-place assets"). The standard deviation of state-reported data was higher than the average number of reported assets!

Rather than reducing the list to only critical infrastructure / key resources (CI/KR), DHS just let the database bloat. And that is the main thrust of the linked report: Prioritize the friggin' list for CI/KR.

Funding for the Buffer Zone Protection Program is linked to the database, although it appears they did some internal culling before allocating state funds. But we'll never really know exactly what was culled, since the data isn't public.
posted by F Mackenzie at 2:57 PM on July 12, 2006


I just really like that typo.

It was deliberate. I'm picking on the Heartland.

It's like how people from Long Island pronounce it "Lon Guyland."
posted by tkchrist at 3:18 PM on July 12, 2006


So, is it only me that thinks it's weird to publish this list?

Seems like it would save a lot of time and effort for someone who has a bomb and isn't sure what to do with it...
posted by exon at 3:26 PM on July 12, 2006


One of the reasons given by my parental unit was to get away from the New York City area (we lived about 20 miles out), so as not to be vaporized immediately when the Russians nuked it... so we moved out to the middle of nowhere.

In my high school U.S. Foreign Policy and Current World Events class, we had an exercise (that I think lasted a couple of periods) where each student was supposed to determine where the best place would be to go in the continental U.S. to avoid being killed or in the direct fallout path of a global thermonuclear war.

After we all made our choices, the instructor tagged all of our locations on a map, then proceeded with the war simulation. He went through three major rounds of bombings from the "enemy", explaining the reason for each target (all legitimate strategic military strikes), and updating the fallout pattern/radius over the timeframe of the subsequent bombings.

By the end of the third round, there were only ridiculously small pockets of unaffected land left in the entire country, and everyone in the class was "dead".

It was a very emotionally uplifting exercise. :)
posted by Brak at 3:37 PM on July 12, 2006


Duh...I didn't actually make my point above relevant to the discussion, which I meant to tie in with the following question:

Why is it up to the states to determine what constitutes a legitimate terrorist threat, and report it to the DHS? That's not the way it was during the Cold War, was it? I don't understand why a federal agency with an intelligence arm can't come up with the same kinds of lists of strategic targets that they did for a hypothetical nuclear war. Does the federal government's intelligence community not have a detailed understanding of the nation's strategic resources and liabilities, regardless of the type of attack? If not, why the hell not? It doesn't seem like a "vote by committee" kind of exercise to me.
posted by Brak at 3:46 PM on July 12, 2006


Brak, the list originally had 1,849 assets in 2003, but it was determined that it did not adequately represent "the nation’s 13 critical infrastructure sectors and 4 key resources.” So DHS issued a data call to the states in 2003 and again in 2004, the general idea being the states would be more familiar with their own territory.

But the guidance given the states wasn't precise, so the bureaucracy took over and spit out inconsistent, varying, and often duplicate data. The list was now too large, but who deletes data in the "information age?" DHS kept the database as a "master asset" list, but somehow just haven't gotten around to fully categorizing all the data, especially in regards to "Critical Infrastructure / Key Resources" (which is pretty much your terrorist hit list).

The National Asset Database, without proper categorization, is a phonebook.
posted by F Mackenzie at 4:00 PM on July 12, 2006



The National Asset Database, without proper categorization, is a phonebook.

That scene from The Jerk just popped into my mind... only, instead of M. Emmet Walsh running his fingers down the page picking names out of a phone book, it's Osama Bin Laden.

"Navin R. Johnson... now that sounds like a real asshole."
posted by tkchrist at 4:05 PM on July 12, 2006


Don't forget that the the Indiana governor is Mitc "the war will cost somewhere around $795 plus tax" Danials and probably understands how this shit works.
Most everything done since 9/11 has been this type of stupid busy work that in the end does nothing.
That said the Indiana's of the country probably do have more targets than New York etc. A coordinated successful attack on 3 or 4 small town football or basketball games would create a sense of fear in the bulk of the country that wold completely facilitate the giving up of all expectation of any rights and ultimately do the country in. Not as spectacular but probably much more easy to plan.
posted by mss at 4:08 PM on July 12, 2006


Osama Bin Laden is dead.
posted by nlindstrom at 4:19 PM on July 12, 2006


Terrorism!! [YouTube]
posted by Drexen at 4:33 PM on July 12, 2006


Osama Bin Laden is dead.

That's what we said about Paul McCartney.

Then he insidiously bombed the Heartland with "Say, Say, Say!"

We lost many a good man that day.
posted by tkchrist at 4:40 PM on July 12, 2006


When I was young I was told the Russians had their nukes aimed at home plate of Milwaukee County Stadium (only a few miles from our school) because it was poison the water supply for Wisconsin and Illinois.

If I were a terrorist, I would just re-enact the DC sniper attacks but using more people and at random spots in the country.
posted by drezdn at 4:46 PM on July 12, 2006


If I were a terrorist, I would just re-enact the DC sniper attacks but using more people and at random spots in the country.

Yup. Shopping malls. Economy. Meet Grinding Halt.
posted by tkchrist at 4:55 PM on July 12, 2006


Guys, if the NAD was more "precise," it would be essentially a government-funded terrorism checklist. Like a Who's Who of American Terrorism Targets, if you will. Since it's this long, I'm assuming the strategy is to simply bore would-be terrorists long enough that they forget what they were looking for. Or perhaps throw in enough stuff that they might find something interesting, thereby boosting tourism. You know, like Osama bin Laden is reading along, and all of a sudden he's like, "Hey, this Sweetwater Flea Market sounds pretty sweet, bra! We should check it out."
posted by MrZero at 5:00 PM on July 12, 2006


exon, MrZero... it's not a public database. It's not a published list. The only names you've read about are the few specifically cited in the DHS report as out-of-place.
posted by F Mackenzie at 5:19 PM on July 12, 2006


In my mind, the terrorists are like Arsenio Hall's character "Semmi" in Coming To America, to wit: "The land is so big, the choices so infinite. Where shall we go, L.A. or New York?"

There are more similarities, but this is the one that springs immediately to mind.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:23 PM on July 12, 2006


loop
print (GODDAMN IDIOTS).
next

and I never swear.
posted by uni verse at 5:37 PM on July 12, 2006


DHS is a make-work program for well-connected retards.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:34 PM on July 12, 2006


Other than finding this hilarious, in a sick, sad sort of way, all I can think is..

The 9/11 attacks hit at the center of the American financial district, the Pentagon and were, apparently, trying for the White House. (Finance, government. Things that make the country go.)

What could the DHS possibly have been smoking that would put a petting zoo in remotely the same catagory? I don't care about politics or pork here, they have to know what this looks like to anyone who is capapble of thought, and how much less seriously the public will take them. So what made this seem like a good idea?
posted by Meep! Eek! at 8:04 PM on July 12, 2006


Perhaps it's an exceedingly ridiculous attempt to fooling terrorists. Y'know, seed the idea that there's some kettle korn stand in the heart of Indiana that represents the very heart of America. Classic misinformation campaign. As implemented by retards.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:48 PM on July 12, 2006


I recall when travelling around the world (I was living in Boston at the time) I would just tell people I was from New York because every time I said "Boston" they looked at me completely perplexed, and then I'd have to clarify by saying "Well, you've got New York City here..."

That's what the world thinks of Indiana. They don't.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:08 PM on July 12, 2006


F Mackenzie nailed it. DHS told the states to list everything, and the reporting state agency here listed everything expecting that someone on the federal level will appy a common sense filter to it.

Meep! Eek!: I think that one of the frustrating things about 9/11 is that it has come to define terrorism. In fact 9/11 is a rather extreme outlier. Since 9/11 we have seen more successful attacks and unsuccessful threats against:
1: Urban transportation systems: (Mumbai, Madrid, London, Israel)
2: Small-scale military and govenment targets (Iraq, Nairobi)
3: Hotels and resorts (Jakarta, Jordan, Egypt)
4: Public recreational areas (Israel)

The list of locations are just off the top of my head. It wouldn't surprise me if there are examples that I've missed. Discussions of terrorism would strike me as much more sane if we stopped obsessing over national landmarks, and treating 9/11 as the archetype of the next terrorist attack.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:35 AM on July 13, 2006


Meep! Eek!: I think that one of the frustrating things about 9/11 is that it has come to define terrorism. In fact 9/11 is a rather extreme outlier. Since 9/11 we have seen more successful attacks and unsuccessful threats against:

First off, I think it is the definition of terrorism for most Americans, whether that's right or not. That's the wound that hasn't closed over yet. I realize that there have been acts of terror all over the world, and that they have been very different from the collapse of the twin towers. It just seems like the next attack is more likely to be another attempt to cripple the country rather than kill a few hundred people. (BTW: I don't believe that any of the 9/11 attacks had anything to do with being landmarks. As I said in my previous post, they hit one of the biggest financial centers, attempted to take out the head of the country and the military's base of operations. That's not about landmarks. If they wanted landmarks, they'd have gone for Lady Liberty, I would think. It's a much more universally held symbolic landmark of America than the twin towers. Well, it was.) I hope I'm giving them way too much credit, though.

And feel free to call me "meep". :)
posted by Meep! Eek! at 9:20 AM on July 13, 2006


Meep: First off, I think it is the definition of terrorism for most Americans, whether that's right or not. That's the wound that hasn't closed over yet.

You know what they call the continual expectation of traumatic events that have a low probability of future occurance?

Neurosis. Mental illness.

The U.S. needs a big whopping mass shink for our collective psyche.

I realize that there have been acts of terror all over the world, and that they have been very different from the collapse of the twin towers. It just seems like the next attack is more likely to be another attempt to cripple the country rather than kill a few hundred people.

Except for the messy problem that two such "next attacks" have already happened in the U.S.: the anthrax distribution and the "Beltway Sniper." If we take the U.S. and Candian govenments at their word, there have been planned attacks using targeting govenment buldings and transportation systems.

I hope I'm giving them way too much credit, though.

I don't think you are giving them enough credit. The entire premise of terrorism is not strategic destruction of vital resources. After all, while the WTC and the Pentagon hurts, it's plainly obvious that most Western multinationals and the American military have command structures decentralized and flexible enough to survive such limited attacks.

The point of terrorism is psychological. It is to make the point that your government cannot protect you. Which is why we have an ongoing pattern of attacks on hotels and civilian transportation systems. Attacks on targets with high symbolic value is an added bonus. The Olympic Games (Munich and Atlanta), high profile targets (the Unibomber) and places of worship are three other examples. But but attacks that affect the lives of civilians either at work, play, or on vacation will also do the trick.

And the WTC as the commercial home of western companies that are engaged in defiling ben Laden's sacred land of the prophet has high symbolic value for him. Which is why it has been targeted twice.

A while ago I made a quiet bet that the next terrorist incident on U.S. soil will involve a much smaller attack against a "soft" low-profile target using either a suicide bomb or a truck bomb. It looks like I came too close for my comfort.

And I think it is a safe bet to make again. The next terrorist incident on U.S. soil will involve conventional truck, suicide or backpack bombs with the goal of civilian casualties.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:05 AM on July 13, 2006


heh heh, Colbert.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:04 PM on July 14, 2006


KirkJobSluder: You know what they call the continual expectation of traumatic events that have a low probability of future occurrence?

Neurosis. Mental illness.


I'm not saying it's rational. It's more like the country is having a really bad case of PTSD. The last time I remember there being this much paranoia was during the tylenol scare.

The U.S. needs a big whopping mass shrink for our collective psyche.

Definitely. Time and a lack of attacks seems like the easiest and/or best way to become well, but we have no control over that.

Except for the messy problem that two such "next attacks" have already happened in the U.S.: the anthrax distribution and the "Beltway Sniper." If we take the U.S. and Canadian governments at their word, there have been planned attacks using targeting government buildings and transportation systems.

The Beltway Sniper, while arguably being a terrorist attack, was one of our own, and strikes a different chord. There are similar incidents in our history, and the collective psyche, while frightened and angry, has dealt with it before.

The anthrax mailings I completely agree with you on. And we still don't know who mailed the anthrax out. But most people didn't hold on to that one the same way. Maybe because it wasn't a huge, all-at-once tragedy.

The others we are told about were apparently nipped in the bud, and therefore would be more likely to make people think that their government can keep them safe.

And the WTC as the commercial home of western companies that are engaged in defiling ben Laden's sacred land of the prophet has high symbolic value for him. Which is why it has been targeted twice.

Perhaps. There are other reasons one might try to take that down. I was simply saying that landmarks aren't what is being aimed at, except where they happen to coincide with a practical use. Subways, a tunnel linking two large metro areas, the WTC, the UN, all have practical uses, not just cosmetic 'see, we spit on your american landmarks' value.

And I think it is a safe bet to make again. The next terrorist incident on U.S. soil will involve conventional truck, suicide or backpack bombs with the goal of civilian casualties.

It seems most likely, yes. After all, the Oklahoma City bombing struck everyone, whether they were in any way personally affected by it. Unfortunately, I think most people still have a 'it can't happen here' mentality, unless something big, or something close by, happens. I may be being cynical on that.
posted by Meep! Eek! at 11:10 AM on July 15, 2006


I should think any half-witted terrorist is fully capable of recognizing the US's dire dependence on a single monocrop, and will have absolutely no problem conceiving a plan to crop-dust the corn-growing heartlands with a corn virus.

It'd lead to such a disruption in the food supply that probably half of you would starve.

Come to think of it, maybe that's also the solution to your obesity epidemic. I'll bet most of it is driven by the use of corn syrup products in foodstuffs. Eliminate the corn, eliminate the fat...
posted by five fresh fish at 2:54 PM on July 15, 2006


Does that mean that I would actually be able to have a coke again, since I avoid the stuff with corn syrup?

And I agree that eliminating the use of corn syrup in nearly everything would be a great way to help people with caloric intake. But that's for a different thread. :)
posted by Meep! Eek! at 1:05 PM on July 17, 2006


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