May 14, 2007
By Theresa Schmidt
Before September 11, 2001, who would have imagined a workshop in Lake Charles on "Weapons of Mass Destructon (WMD)." But around 300 people from industry, law enforcement and government agencies are attending such training this week.
The attacks of 911 changed everything when it comes to keeping an eye out for threats from terrorists. And while New York and Washington D.C. were hit then, the petrochemical industry of Southwest Louisiana and Southeast Texas make this area a concern. That's why they are holding an "FBI Weapons of Mass Destruction and Chemical Outreach" workshop.
Jim Bernazzani is the WMD special agent in charge for Louisiana. "What we are trying to do is build relationships because the international terrorist threat is real. It is present. Although we see no planned lethal operations in this country, the Sunni Jihad movement are continually conspiring to come up with ways to attack the homeland. And one of the things our intelligence tells us is that they have a fascination with weapons of mass destruction."
He says the terrorists' goal is to cripple our economy and that's how the local petrochemical industry fits in. "So, we're very concerned about their attempts to acquire a weapon, either a radiological weapon, a nuclear weapon, a biological weapon or a chemical weapon."
FBI WMD Deputy Assistant Director Roland Mignone came here from Washington D.C. for the workshop. He says better communication will help keep our country safe. "Remember one of our first lines of defense is industry--whether it's the chemical industry that reports suspicious activities they see outside their facility or with employees who might be exhibiting suspicious behavior."
And while the agencies work to improve communication and rapport between industry and the agencies, they say all citizens play a vital role in the fight against terrorism. Says Bernazzani, "The public are our eyes and ears. They're the force multiplier. And if the public has any information of concern relative to international terrorism don't sit on it. Call the FBI."
Mignone agrees: "Most vital is the individual observer, the husband running an errand for a wife who drives by a facility and sees somebody sitting in a car with binoculars and cameras and taking photographs of that facility. It's the individual that overhears a conversation among individuals who he distrusts and says, 'They were talking about some sort of violent attack, I should report that."
And while they say the United States is better prepared for an attack than it was September 10th 2001, they admit the enemy is just as committed as it was on that day.