Cracking Down on the E.L.F.

  • The Earth Liberation Front claimed responsibility for burning this house under construction near Bloomington, Indiana in 1999. Photo courtesy Herald-Times, by Jeremy Hogan.

The Earth Liberation Front is an underground group that attacks institutions it believes harm the environment. During the past five years, its members have caused approximately $40 million in damages. E.L.F’s most notorious acts of destruction include torching a luxury ski resort, destroying the executive offices of a forest-product company, and setting on fire university labs involved in genetically-modified crop research. For some time, environmentalists and others have debated whether this sort of activity was simply a public protest, or acts of terrorism. But since September 11th, that debate has escalated with increased efforts to label those involved in such attacks as terrorists. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Todd Melby has this report:

Transcript

The Earth Liberation Front is an underground group that attacks institutions it
believes harm the environment. During the past five years, its members have caused
approximately $40 million in damages. E.L.F.’s most notorious acts of destruction include torching a luxury ski resort, destroying the executive offices of a forest-product
company, and setting on fire university labs involved in genetically-modified crop research. For some time, environmentalists and others have debated whether this sort of activity was simply a public protest, or acts of terrorism. But since September 11th, that debate has escalated with increased efforts to label those involved in such attacks as terrorists. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Todd Melby has this report:


On a cold, January night in St. Paul, Minnesota, one or more members of the Earth Liberation Front set fire to a construction trailer parked on the University of Minnesota campus. Flames quickly spread to an adjacent building, causing $40,000 in damages.


(Construction site sounds)


But while the Crop Research Building burst into flames, the real target was the university’s proposed Microbial and Genomics building – a $20 million undertaking.


(Construction sounds go silent)


The attack wasn’t a surprise to Peggy Leppick. She’s a state representative, who chairs the Higher Education Committee in the Minnesota House of Representatives.


“A lot of the research that goes on at the university is fairly obscure and people don’t know about it, but when you build a building that is essentially a monument to genomics and genetic engineering, it becomes a bulls-eye.”


That’s why university officials are asking the Legislature for nearly $4 million to beef up security. They’ve also ratcheted up the rhetoric. University of Minnesota president Mark Yudolf has no qualms about using the word “terrorist” to describe E.L.F. members who’ve attacked his campus more than once.


“People who blow up facilities and buildings and who may try to avoid risking human life, but almost inevitably something can go wrong: that is my definition of a terrorist, yes.”


But attaching labels to actions doesn’t come so easily for others. There’s a fine distinction for some between terrorist and protesters.


“The definition of terrorist is a very political definition.”


Katherine Sikkink is a political science professor at the University of Minnesota.


“In this country, we have words for it. It’s called ‘crime.’ We don’t have to jump to the term ‘terrorism.’ When people destroy property it’s called ‘crime.’ We have police forces that are here to deal with crime and I think they should do it.”


Not surprisingly, Leslie James Pickering, a spokesman with the E.L.F. press office in Portland, Oregon, agrees with Sikkink’s characterization.


“If they were terrorists they would be engaging in violent terrorist actions. What they do is sabotage property. They’ve never harmed anybody. They never will harm anybody because it is against their code.”


That code, Pickering says, ensures that human life will be protected. When E.L.F. activists set fire to a building, they say it’s searched before flames engulf the facility.


“They are vandals. They are arsonists. They are engaging in illegal activity, there’s no question about that, but there is a difference between sabotage and terrorism.”


But that distinction may be lost in the rush to deal with terrorism, both foreign and domestic. The government appears on the verge of adding environmental groups such as E.L.F to its “War on Terrorism.”


A top F.B.I. official has called E.L.F. “the most active eco-terrorist” group in the United States. A Congressional Committee recently subpoenaed Leslie James Pickering’s predecessor in the E.L.F press office to testify. When committee members weren’t satisfied with his answers, they threatened him with contempt of Congress.


And now U.S. Congressman Gil Gutknecht, a Minnesota Republican, is calling for the death penalty if politically-motivated arsons or other actions result in a fatality. Gutknecht also wants the federal government to establish an “eco-terrorism” clearinghouse so law enforcement officials can do a better job of tracking environmental activists involved in illegal activity.


These proposals have drawn the ire of Chuck Samuelson, the executive director of the Minnesota Civil Liberties Union.


“September 11 has been a boon for people who are interested in making laws more strict, regulating society and limiting freedom.”


Samuelson says Gutknecht’s death penalty proposal won’t stop politically-motivated murders. And he’s also opposed to a federal clearinghouse that tracks E.L.F. members, saying it’s likely to be secret.


“The question that always comes up is about the privacy rights of people, how that information gets put in, who gets to change that information and who gets to use that information. If it’s secret and is not available to the public, so that you as a reporter couldn’t go see it or do an investigative piece on how they’re doing it, it’s got to scare you.”


Although Samuelson is quick to criticize the government’s proposed crackdown on E.L.F., he’s no defender of the group. He scoffs at the E.L.F. code, saying no matter their ‘no-harm-to-human-life’ intent, it’s only a matter of time before someone is killed.


Professor Sikkink also questions the group’s tactics. While some protest movements have historically engaged in property damage to score political points, she says it comes with a high price tag.


“So these tactics, you know, of destruction of government property are not unheard of, they’ve been around for a long time, but I do think they really run the risk of alienating the people you want to convince.”


Despite the increased pressure on E.L.F to halt the violence, Leslie James Pickering, the group’s spokesman, says he doesn’t expect its members to change its ways anytime soon. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Todd Melby in Minneapolis.

Tightening Security on the Great Lakes

Since September 11th, the U.S. government has been closing security gaps in aviation. But maritime officials warn that security on our Great Lakes is even less certain. Recently the U.S. Coast Guard held an international conference in Cleveland on Great Lakes security. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Schaefer reports:

Transcript

Since September 11, the U.S. government has been closing security gaps in aviation. But maritime officials warn that security on our Great Lakes is even less certain. Recently the U.S. Coast Guard held an international conference in Cleveland on Great Lakes security. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Karen Schaefer reports:

On September 11, about 55 commercial U.S. and foreign freighters were cruising the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway. Even as the nation’s airports were being closed, U.S. Coast Guard officials were ordered to stop and search those vessels. It took two days for the search to be completed. Commander James Hull heads the Coast Guard’s 9th District, which oversees shipping in the Great Lakes region. He says that action alerted the Guard to a serious problem.

“Didn’t know exactly where all those ships were. AIS system solves that.”

AIS is a new communications protocol now being developed by the International Maritime Organization. Using a global positioning system, ships equipped with AIS will be able to transmit their exact location – and identity – to other vessels and maritime authorities. But so far, the system hasn’t been widely adopted. And that’s just the first security risk the Coast Guard discovered.

“We had people asking how you drive the ships and how you get training?”

As the weeks went by, the list of vulnerable areas grew. Nuclear power plants located along the lakeshore, ports and harbors, bridges, tunnels, and locks. Ships carrying hazardous cargo and those from countries with known terrorist links. And then there are the thousands of cargo containers shipped daily from ports around the world.

“Ambi here?”

27-hundred reservists were called up to assist the Coast Guard in patrolling and monitoring sensitive areas. The federal government allocated more than 220-million dollars in additional funds. But four months after the terrorist attacks, more than 50-percent of the Coast Guard’s efforts are still being spent on security. The Guard’s original mission – to guide maritime operations, assist in search and rescue, and help clean up environmental problems – has been largely overshadowed. Nonetheless oversight of commercial shipping is part of the Coast Guard’s job. Goods shipped on the Great Lakes are worth more than 742-billion dollars a year to the U.S. economy. Most of those goods and raw materials enter or leave the Great Lakes in bulk shipments and in containers that are off-loaded directly from ships. Dr. Steven Flynn is a former Coast Guard Commander and a Senior Fellow with the National Security Studies Program at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City. He says a disruption to Great Lakes shipping could have wide-reaching consequences for the entire U.S.

“And so if we have another incident…we’re still extremely vulnerable, we’re still not out of the woods on this here – that if it happens in those sectors, my fear is not just the consequence of seeing another sight like I saw on September 16 after the attack, but also is the disruption that would come from happening within those sectors.”

Those disruptions could also severely hamper the Canadian economy, which ships much of its grain and steel through the Great Lakes. As the U.S.’s largest trading partner and nearest neighbor, Canada already shares jurisdiction over Great Lakes resources through the International Joint Commission. Now government officials on both sides of the border say it’s more important than ever to work together.

(1B 258 Streeter Integrated border enforcement)

John Adams is the Canadian Coast Guard Commissioner. He says the U.S. and Canada have recently signed a 30-point plan to jointly improve security on the Great Lakes, while allowing trade to flourish. Both governments have already instituted new 96-hour arrival notification requirements for vessels coming into North American ports. And they’ve extended the international maritime borders from 3-miles to twelve. But there are plenty of other new security plans yet to be adopted, ranging from identity cards and background checks to a point-of-origin system for clearing container cargo. And both countries will be sending representatives to the International Maritime Organization conference in London, where organizers hope to move ahead with new standardized strategies to keep global trade secure. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Karen Schaefer.

Epa Wavers Over Online Information

  • Some federal agencies and laboratories have restricted access to information. The government fears terrorists could use some information to plan attacks against the U.S.

Following the terrorist attacks on September 11th, the federal government has been re-thinking its website policies. Anything that the government feels could be used by terrorists was removed from the Internet. For example, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission completely shut down its website for a time and little of it has been restored. The Army Corps of Engineers removed information about dams across the U-S from its sites. Similarly, some information about natural gas pipelines, and transportation systems was removed. The Environmental Protection Agency removed information about hazardous chemicals. Now, the E-P-A is considering putting back some information about the risks communities face because of nearby industrial plants. But some industry groups were glad to see the information removed and don’t want it put back on the internet. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:

Transcript

Following the terrorist attacks on September 11th, the federal government has been re-thinking its website policies. Anything that the government feels could be used by terrorists was removed from the internet. For example. the Nuclear Regulatory Commission completely shut down its website for a time and little of it has been restored. The Army Corps of Engineers removed information about dams across the U.S. from its sites. Similarly, some information about natural gas pipelines, and transportation systems was removed. The Environmental Protection Agency removed information about hazardous chemicals. Now, the EPA is considering putting back some information about the risks communities face because of nearby industrial plants. But, some industry groups were glad to see the information removed and don’t want it put back on the internet. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.


In the last decade or so, the government has put volumes and volumes of information on the internet. In the interest of an open and free government, federal agencies have given the public access to all kinds of data. But after the terrorist attacks, there was a scramble to remove a lot of that data. Some government agencies concede they might have overreacted when pulling information off the web. But, most indicate they thought it was better to be safe than to leave information on the internet that terrorists could use to more effectively plan an attack.


For example, the Environmental Protection Agency removed Risk Management Plans from the EPA website. Those plans give details about certain hazardous chemicals that are kept at industrial plants, how a chemical leak or fire at a plant would affect the surrounding community. and even how many people might be hurt or killed in a worse case scenario.


The EPA Administrator, Christie Whitman recently explained to journalists why she had the agency remove those plans.


“That was information on our website that really gave terrorists a road map as to how to where to plan an attack. I was just not sure that we wanted to have that up for any –not so much terrorists, but terrorist wannabe— to find and to take advantage of.”


The information was originally put together in EPA office reading rooms open to the public. Later it was put up on the EPA’s website. That was so community groups could more easily learn about the risks they faced from nearby chemical plants. It was also used by some neighborhood groups to pressure companies to either implement better safety measures or stop using certain chemicals.


Administrator Whitman says in the weeks since the attacks, the EPA has been reviewing whether some of that information can be restored to the internet.


“What we’re doing is reviewing and seeing if it is readily available elsewhere, then there’s no point in our taking it off. We’d put it back again.”


But many chemical companies and other industry groups don’t want that information put back on the government’s websites, even though it’s sometimes still available elsewhere on the internet. In fact, they don’t want the information available to the public at all.


Angela Logomasini is with the Washington-based libertarian think tank, the Competitive Enterprise Institute. She says the information, such as worse case scenarios, shouldn’t be available because it might be used by terrorists. Logomasini was surprised to learn the EPA Administrator is considering putting the information back on the internet.


“I think it’s ridiculous. I think what they should be doing is trying to investigate, you know, what the risks are and whether this is really a wise thing to do. You know, just simply because other groups have taken the information and posted some of it on the internet does not mean that our government should go out of its way and provide it too.”


Logomasini says the risk management plans are of little use to the public anyway. She says the only people who used them were environmentalists, who wanted the information to scare people.


There’s some skepticism about the chemical industry’s real motivation to keep the information out of public view. Besides environmentalists. Some journalists use the information to track industry safety and government regulations.


Margaret Kriz is a correspondent for the National Journal where she writes about government, industry and the environment. She says since September 11th, chemical industry people might be arguing that the risk management plans should be kept secret for national security reasons. But before then, their reasons had more to do with corporate public relations and competition.


“Some of the information that was taken off the web by EPA the day of the attack is information the chemical industry has been trying to get off the web for years. They have not wanted it on there because they really don’t want to have— they fear two things: they fear the public will overreact to the information if they find out (about) some chemicals in a nearby plant and the second thing, they’re fearful if a competitor for them will go look at this information and find out what chemicals are being used and figure out what their secret formula is for whatever they make.”


So, it appears to at least some observers that the chemical industry sees the concern over terrorism as an opportunity. an opportunity to get the internet-based information removed for good. But it looks as though the Environmental Protection Agency is leaning toward making some of the information available on the website again. However. EPA Administrator Christie Whitman didn’t say when. Other agencies are also reviewing the information they’ve removed from the web with an eye toward eventually making some version of the data available to the public once again on the internet.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.

Related Links

Increasing Water Supply Safety

In the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks, Americans are getting mixed signals from officials about just how safe their drinking water is. The federal government is trying to calm fears that terrorists might poison public water supplies. But at the same time the government and water utilities are asking the public to help keep an eye on reservoirs and storage tanks. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:

Transcript

In the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks, Americans are getting mixed signals from officials about just how safe their drinking water is. The federal government is trying to calm fears that terrorists might poison public water supplies. But, at the same time the government and water utilities are asking the public to help keep an eye on reservoirs and storage tanks. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.


Since the attacks, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Christie Whitman, has been traveling the country, assuring groups that water supplies are safe from terrorism. Speaking recently to a group of journalists, Whitman explained that security at water utilities has been increased and that water is now tested more frequently. And she said that given the size of most reservoirs, it would take a very large amount of any chemical or biological contaminant before any such attack would have an effect.


“It would be extremely difficult for someone to perform this kind of act, taking a truckload –and that’s what it would be, a tanker truckload– up to a reservoir and dumping it in, given the heightened security we have today. And that’s a security that’s not just being provided by the water companies, which it is, but it’s also citizen heightened security, believe me. People are calling in all the time when they see things that they think they shouldn’t be seeing near water supply systems.”


But, Whitman’s view is not shared by a number of experts in the field of terrorism prevention. Jim Snyder is a professor at the University of Michigan. He was a member of a team of experts that worked with the Defense Department to determine possible threats against public water supplies.


“There are a number of contaminants, several bio-toxins and a large number of chemicals that are more or less readily available that could be put into, let’s say, a ten-million gallon reservoir which could in amounts something between a backpack and a pickup truck could achieve a lethal dose of 50-percent. That is, 50-percent of the people who drank one cup would die.”


And Snyder adds, water contamination wouldn’t have to be lethal, just contaminated enough that it caused panic and made the water unusable. Snyder also points out that the tests that production chemists run on water would not detect the kind of contaminants terrorists would use. The first clue something was wrong would be sick or dead people.


EPA Administrator Whitman concedes that there are some contaminants that would not be filtered out or killed by disinfectants used in water treatment. but she says water systems across the U-S are prepared for most kinds of attacks.


“The vast majority of contaminants about which we’re worried, we know how to treat. We know what steps to take. And those where we’re not sure of what we need to do, we’re working with the CDC to develop a protocol to respond. And we’re sharing that information as we get it with the water companies to make sure even those small ones know what to look for and how to treat it if they find it.”


Besides the Center for Disease Control, the EPA is working with the FBI and the water utilities to prepare for the worst, while telling the public that there’s little to worry about. The EPA could have helped those water systems prepare earlier. The terrorism prevention team Jim Snyder sat on drafted a manual for water system operators, outlining security measures that could be taken. The EPA buried that manual in part because the agency didn’t want to unnecessarily alarm the public.


The water utility industry is working with the EPA to try to calm any fears the consumers might have. The American Water Works Association has held joint news conferences with Administrator Whitman, echoing the statement that poisons would be diluted or that it would take a tanker of contaminants to cause a problem. Pam Krider is a spokesperson for the American Water Works Association.


“When you get into a specific discussion about types of chemicals or quantities of chemicals, whether it’s a backpack or whether it’s a tanker, I mean, those are not as useful as discussing what are the processes that a utility has in place for monitoring what is and is not in its water, ensuring that they can provide safe, clean drinking water to the consumers within their city.”


So, the American Water Works Association is encouraging water utilities to step up testing water and quietly meet with emergency planners to prepare for the worst..


“What we have been discussing is the need for every utility to work very closely with local officials, to have a crisis preparedness and response plan in place, to have back-up systems in place, and most important, to engage their local community in keeping an eye out on the different reservoirs, storage tanks and treatment facilities and reporting any kind of suspicious activity that they might see both to the utility as well as to the police department.”


Water terrorism prevention expert Jim Snyder says simple things such as locking gates and posting security guards go a long way to discourage would-be terrorists from attacking a water treatment plant, storage tanks, wells or a reservoir. However, he notes. there’s little that can be done to stop a determined terrorist from contaminating a public water supply. And it seems that’s a message the EPA and the water utilities don’t want to talk about because it might worry the public.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.

America’s Hidden Arsenal

Americans are still struggling to recapture the skies, even as they follow news of military action in Afghanistan. Some airlines are attracting passengers with reduced prices, and airport officials are reassuring citizens with promises of heightened security. Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Julia King thinks that both on the ground and in the air, maybe our nation’s best weapon is one the naked eye can’t see:

Transcript

Americans are still struggling to recapture the skies, even as they follow news of military action in Afghanistan. Some airlines are attracting passengers with reduced prices and airport officials are reassuring citizens with promises of heightened security. Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator, Julia King, thinks that both on the ground and in the air, maybe our nation’s best weapon is one the naked eye can’t see.


My 61-year-old peace activist mother is ready to fight. She called me the day before her first post-Sept. 11th air travel and announced her intentions to battle any would-be hijackers.


“I’ll be one of the people who charge them,” she said. “I would hope that my adrenaline would be pumping and maybe I wouldn’t even feel it if I was stabbed.”


She wasn’t joking; she has enlisted in the war against terrorism — and her resolve shouldn’t be underestimated. Nor should we underestimate the power of similar declarations made by millions of other Americans just like my mother. They are all part of a vast, hidden arsenal: everyday people with a plan to resist. They aren’t militia types, and although gun sales are reportedly up, many of our newest “soldiers” would never even consider purchasing a weapon.


There is something oddly reassuring about the image of grandparents taking on terrorists — gray-haired ladies sitting quietly beneath the radar until the last minute when they storm out of hiding and thwart the evildoers. It’s a scene right out of a B movie, one that until recently would have left all but the most fanciful of us rolling our eyes in disbelief.


But that was before the plane went down off-target in Pennsylvania at the hands of heroic passengers. That was before a nation spent countless midnight hours concocting scenarios in which they were up there.


“What would I have done,” we have all asked ourselves by now. “What will I do?” My mother’s answer (“I’ll charge!”) is a good one, one that both offers comfort and fulfills some primal need to maintain control in the face of chaos. What makes it so poignant is that many of the new enlistees of this war do not, as a habit, raise their fists in anger. And even now, it’s not anger that motivates them, but rather a sacred sense of human duty to minimize harm to others.


We can search everyone who gets on a plane, lock cockpit doors, arm pilots, but in the end, this war may be fought and won by 61-year-old peace activists and skinny guys with glasses – just ordinary people who are willing to do extraordinary things.

Epa Removes Sensitive Info From Websites

A lot of data that was once available on government websites is being removed because of concerns the information might be used by terrorists. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:

Transcript

A lot of data that was once available on government websites is being removed because of concerns that the information might be used by terrorists. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.


About ten years ago Congress required a lot of information about chemicals and hazardous wastes stored at local plants be made available to communities. Some of that information was put on the Internet. Other government websites gave public access to maps of gas and oil pipelines in the interest of open government. Much of that information has been removed in the weeks since the terrorist attacks on September 11th. Keith Harley is an attorney who represents communities and citizens who’ve often used the data in legal disputes. He says removing the information might be a good thing.


“It would be better for community safety and public health if” sites which are potential terrorist targets– information about those sites would not be broadly broadcast.”


While not on the Internet, much of the information is still available on paper by request.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.

Attacks Change Nature of Enviro Debate

Before the terrorist attacks on the U.S., environmental groups were often critical of the Bush Administration’s policies. But since September 11th, most of the environmental organizations have erased all traces of criticism of the White House. Some politicians, though, see opportunities to push through energy policies in the name of national security – policies that could damage the environment. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:

Transcript

Before the terrorist attacks on the U.S., environmental groups were often critical of the Bush Administration’s policies. But, since September 11th, most of the environmental organizations have erased all traces of criticism of the White House. Some politicians, though, see opportunities to push through energy policies in the name of national security, policies that could damage the environment. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.


If you’d visited the Sierra Club Internet web site before September eleventh, or that of the Natural Resources Defense Council, or any of a dozen or more major environmental groups’ sites, you likely would have seen sometimes harsh criticism of the Bush Administration’s energy policies, environmental policies, and a host of other complaints the groups had against the White House. Some environmental groups were also running TV ads attacking the Bush Administration’s policies. But, after the terrorist attacks, the ads were pulled and many of the environmental groups removed those criticisms from their web sites in the name of national unity.


Joe Davis is editor of a tip sheet compiled for environmental journalists. He’s watched as most environmental groups have stifled their criticism since the attacks.


“I think everybody’s waiting just to see, you know, what’s going to happen in the next few days and weeks. And, of course, environmental groups are, for the most part, as patriotic as everybody else and people do understand that national unity is important.”


Some journalists have questioned whether the environmental groups are backing down from their positions or merely lying low for a little while. The environmental groups aren’t saying much. But behind the scenes, there’s concern that environmental protection will get trampled in the name of national security.


Meanwhile, some politicians have seen opportunities in the wake of the tragedy. Immediately after the attacks, the Alaska congressional delegation began pushing harder for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The members said such drilling would reduce America’s dependence on oil from the Middle East. They were admonished, though, for being opportunists in the wake of tragedy. The Alaska politicians quickly backed off and took the fight for drilling behind the scenes.


Outside of Washington, it’s a different story. Some state politicians have become even more vocal in their support of oil and gas exploration. Just before the terrorist attacks, Michigan’s Natural Resources Commission lifted a moratorium on drilling for oil and natural gas under the Great Lakes. The Michigan Legislature could still step in to block any such drilling. But some of the lawmakers say because of the terrorist attacks, Michigan should drill. Dale Shugars is a Republican State Senator who supports drilling under the lakes.

_____________
“With the sustained war that we’re going to be going into, I think it’s very important from a national security point of view that the country be more independent for oil and gas.”


Environmentalists in Michigan are appalled that Senator Shugars and some of their colleagues are taking that tact. James Clift is the policy director for the Michigan Environmental Council. He says the reserves under the lakes are so miniscule they’ll have next to no effect on the nation’s energy security and using the terrorist attacks to justify drilling under the Great Lakes is wrong.


“We do not believe that the unfortunate incident of the terrorist attack has changed anything as far as energy policy in the United States. The same conditions that applied before apply afterwards. And, even more so, I believe, is the importance for energy conservation. The United States only has four percent of the world’s reserves of oil and gas. Using those reserves up faster isn’t going to make the United States any more secure.”


But Senator Shugars thinks it is naïve to believe using less fuel will be enough. He says now that we’re at war with terrorists, it’s important to drill for fuel for the military and needs at home.


“It’s a fact that we’re going to be having a war against terrorism for a long time and I think that if one is going to look at a national energy policy, it has to include increasing supply and definitely – definitely has to be environmentally sensitive.”


Senator Shugars and others using the terrorist attacks to justify the energy and environmental policies that they want might be walking a tight rope. History shows Americans tend to frown on opportunism during times of national crisis. Environmental journalist Joe Davis says if politicians and energy industry leaders do use that approach, it could backfire. Especially since environmental groups are being quiet for the sake of a united patriotic front.


“Any party who tries to make short-term advantage out of a national crisis like this, I think, is very quickly going to be perceived as being exactly what it is: opportunistic. I don’t think the environmentalists will lay low forever and I don’t think they’re alone in questioning these things.”


But for now, most of the environmentalists are not saying much – at least publicly – about their opposition to the government’s energy and environmental policies. At least not until the nation begins to get past the shock of the terrorist attacks on the U.S.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.

Preparing for Bioterrorism

State health departments, emergency management agencies and doctors throughout the Great Lakes region are re-examining their emergency plans after the terrorist attacks of September 11th. Officials say they need to increase their planning to prepare for a bioterrorist attack. Such an attack could mean the release of deadly diseases into a general population and officials say there’s no way the public health structure could handle such an outbreak right now. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tom Scheck has more:

Transcript

State health departments, emergency management agencies and doctors throughout the Great Lakes region are re-examining their emergency plans after the terrorist attacks of September 11th. Officials say they need to increase their planning to prepare for a bioterrorist attack. Such an attack could mean the release of deadly diseases into a general population and officials say there’s no way the public health structure could handle such an outbreak right now. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Tom Scheck reports…


As the nation tries to recover from the terrorist attacks in Pennsylvania, New York and Washington DC, infectious disease experts are using the tragedies to highlight that the nation’s skies and borders are not the only things the federal government needs to worry about. Those experts say the nation needs to also start preparing for a bioterrorist attack. The University of Minnesota’s Michael Osterholm is one of the leading experts on infectious disease and bioterrorism in the nation. He says it’s unlikely that a terrorist is equipped at this time to release a deadly disease like anthrax or small pox. But he says the events on Tuesday, September 11th have redefined terrorism in the United States. And he says the country is currently ill equipped to handle a biological outbreak.


“We’re a country right now, that if we have a slight increase of influenza cases in the wintertime we close down our hospitals because we have no excess capacity, we don’t have the health care workers or the beds. Now you tell me, given that backdrop, what it will mean when 250 or 300,000 or 400,000 people suddenly come down with smallpox or anthrax.”


Osterholm says if those biologic agents, or others like them are released in an American city, it could, over time, make thousands of people sick. And he says the highly contagious diseases would rapidly transfer from person to person, making it difficult for doctors and public health officials to contain the outbreak. On top of that, Osterholm says most such diseases wouldn’t show their symptoms for 3 or four days. He says that could stretch the state’s public health departments thin as they try to track down who’s infected and who’s not.


“We run much of public health in this country on what I would call the equivalent of running O’Hare air traffic control tower on tin cans and string. Yet that’s going to be the system that’s going to respond to bioterrorism.”


Osterholm and others are lobbying the federal government to allocate billions of dollars to improve the community response rates of public health and emergency personnel throughout the country. He also says the country needs to start stockpiling vaccines for smallpox and anthrax. Since the last human case of small pox was eradicated in 1979,
Osterholm says officials haven’t seen the need to continue vaccinating against the disease. Anthrax, on the other hand, has a vaccine but can also be treated with antibiotics if the disease is caught early enough.


The threat of a bioterrorist attack is not only worrying public health officials but also the emergency room doctors who will be treating infected patients. In addition to running the risk of contracting the same infections they’re treating, emergency room doctors say the threat of bioterrorism adds to an already busy schedule of treating cuts, gashes and gun shot wounds. Now physicians, like Pat Lilja who works at North Memorial Medical Center in the Twin Cities, say they have to watch out for rare illnesses as well; for instance, rare flu-like cases in the summer.


“You don’t know about it until people three or four or five days later suddenly start coming into hospitals sick. So you don’t have this big, all of a sudden, something’s going on. What you have to rely upon are your hospitals, primarily your emergency departments, to say we’ve seen twenty patients today all with this same problem and we usually see one a month.”


Lilja and other emergency room physicians’ say they’ve been conducting mock drills of biological and chemical disasters to prepare for any outbreaks. But he says the emergency plans at many hospitals are stuck on the dusty shelves of an administrator too worried about a declining budget rather than an event that they think could never occur. That worries Randall Larson, the director of the Anser Institute for Homeland Security in Virginia. He says hospitals need to increase their security and monitoring methods to make sure they catch any outbreak that does occur.


“We mad e a decision in this country that we didn’t want the federal government or the state government running our hospitals. They’re private corporations. Thirty percent of them are in the red today. Fifty percent of our teaching hospitals are in the red. They don’t have time to do the exercises and the training they need to be prepared to respond to a biological or a chemical attack. They got to just keep the doors open and stay out of the red.”


Larsen and others say the new federal office of Homeland Security needs to make bioterrorism a priority in the coming years. He says the FBI, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and doctors need to coordinate their efforts to make sure they respond quickly to a biological or chemical outbreak. He says the responsiveness is just as critical for those who work in public health as the quickness expected from a police officer or a firefighter. For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Tom Scheck.

No Such Thing as a Just War

Americans, often independent and splintered, learned on September 11th that – like it or not – we are tethered to our neighbors in ways we never imagined. As the world awaits the next phase of the U.S. response to the terrorist attack, Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Julia King examines the ethical paradox of a just war:

Transcript

Americans, often independent and splintered, learned on September 11th that – like it or not, we are tethered to our neighbors in ways we never imagined. As the world awaits the next phase of the U.S. response to the terrorist attack, Great Lakes Radio Consortium commentator Julia King examines the ethical paradox of a just war.


On one side of my home, there lives a jovial, white-haired grandpa who likes feeding birds and playing soccer with his granddaughters. A retired cop and staunch patriot, he plans to cheer out loud when the United States retaliates for the World Trade Center attack.


On the other side of my home, there lives a quiet, soft-spoken Mennonite couple. Thin, gentle people, they spend their time tending an organic garden and often share their tomatoes and flowers with my young daughter. They are pacifists, bracing themselves for the coming horrors of American warfare.


Sandwiched between committed Hawks and Doves, I’m lonely with my ambivalence.


Americans overwhelmingly say they support a military response. But how many of us answered the question with true contemplation, instead of simple reflex?


“My God,” we said as the buildings smoldered, “do something!” Our minds were made up before we even had time to think.


I both envy and mistrust such certainty. Some of my neighbors are as unyielding in their pacifism as others are in their wish to fight. Both sides are unwilling to consider that the answer might lie somewhere beyond the confines of their own firm beliefs. (Or maybe that there’s no answer at all.)


There are Americans who believe we can bomb Evil from the earth, while others believe that if we are just kind enough; Evil will wander off on its own, like a child without a playmate. And if we believe that our path — whether it be military action or inaction — offers the final solution, we seem to think we have no moral culpability, no blood on our own hands.


And yet we all must know by now, especially now, that with our convictions come ethical burdens. All we can do is follow the paths of our ideals to their logical ends and hope against all odds that they remain intact.


But they won’t, and that is the true horror of war. To fight means that innocent, precious human life will be lost. To refuse to fight means that innocent, precious human life will be lost. And either way, Evil will remain standing. Guilt clings to us all — like original sin — because none of us has been able to end hate.


This is why Americans weep. It’s why our nights are sleepless and our days are clouded with sadness. It’s why we hold to one another and light candles and why we have flooded our places of worship.


We know now what we never wanted to know: there is no such thing as innocence.