Monday, December 17th | 9 Tevet 5779

August 17, 2011 1:10 am

Schumer Demands FBI Checks for Utility Workers

avatar by Maxine Dovere

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Senator Charles Schumer, at Ground Zero, at the Press Conference following the siging of the 9/11 First Responders' Health Care legislation.

New York’s senior Senator Charles E. Schumer raised an alarm at a Sunday press conference revealing “insider sabotage at electric, gas, and water utilities is a ‘significant threat’ to U.S. national security.”

Unlike nuclear power plant workers who are required to pass FBI background checks, “critical utility infrastructure” employees are not. Schumer is introducing legislation to close this major security loophole, calling for mandatory FBI background checks on employees with access to sensitive areas of all major utilities and critical infrastructure plants. Schumer’s legislation would require that major utilities and critical infrastructure facilities “vet” employees with access to the most sensitive areas of utilities against the FBI’s criminal history record repository –  the Interstate Identification Index (Triple I) system, that contains fingerprint records from all states, U.S. territories, federal, and international criminal justice agencies.

“In the face of the intelligence we’ve recovered from Afghanistan, this Homeland Security report, and the domestic incidents of sabotage, it would be irresponsible not to use the resources already available to us from the FBI to ensure security threats don’t have access to control rooms where, with the press of a few buttons, massive terror can be unleashed,” cautioned the Senator.

“Power plants and utilities present a tempting and potentially catastrophic target to extremists who are bent on wreaking havoc on the United States, which is why thorough background checks on all workers with access to the most sensitive areas of these operations are a must,” said Senator Schumer.

The proposed legislation follows the release of the Department of Homeland Security report called Insider Threat to Utilities which assessed the “significant threat.”Several incidents have occurred. The report cited the increasing threats from Al-Qaeda to these facilities. “The DHS report is a wake-up call that we must ensure those with access to our most critical infrastructure – and our power supplies – are not compromised by extremist influences.”

Schumer has previously advocated for tighter regulations at nuclear facilities, including more stringent FBI background checks. With the approach of the tenth anniversary of 9/11, there is concern that an attack on U.S. utilities could enable Al-Qaeda to “inflict the massive amount of damage that documents found at Bin Laden’s compound indicate he was planning.” Schumer noted that “Richard Clarke, former White House counter-terrorism advisor, pointed out that after gaining access to sensitive facilities, causing a massive amount of destruction is relatively easy.”

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