Tuesday, March 26, 2002

Markey malarkey

Fox News fails us with this story

A few years back I was in my home town walking into a public place when a guy grabbed me out of the blue. I grew up across the street from him but hadn't seen him in years. Then he asked me how I liked it at the nuclear power plant I was working at at the time.

I hadn't mentioned it, so how did he know to ask?

Because I had had to pass another security clearance, which as I understand it had been performed by the FBI. Part of the process was that I would give references, but I don't recall ever using his name. But the investigators always found him, so he always knew when I moved on.

What else did I have to do? Well, I gave addresses dating back 10 years and got fingerprinted. I took the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) and other "crazy tests". I was subjected to random drug testing, and could also be tested upon any suspicions by my supervision. I rapidly learned onsite that other than violating radiological control measures, the quickest way to get canned was to mess with security. These standards have probably tightened since I was investigated that time about 10 years ago.

It might well be that some Al-Qaeda terrorists would pass this level of clearance, but I doubt it. But that didn't stop Democrat Rep. Ed Markey from stating that "terrorists may now be employed at nuclear reactors in the United States, just as terrorists enrolled in flight schools in the US". Or at his office, for that matter.

You need to know two things about Markey - he has never had anything good to say about nuclear power plants, and he wants to federalize their security (after the rousing success at our airports).

He goes on to say "As long as they have no criminal record in this country, Al Qaeda operatives are not required to pass any security check intended to find and expose terrorist links". Interesting phrasing. Perhaps finding terrorist links takes a more substantial investigation than the ones I was subjected to. But I suspect that the "intended to find and expose terrorist links" clause is designed to let him dump on security without quite lying. After all, we don't much care about the motivation of someone disposed to foul up a nuclear power plant - we just want to make sure they can't do it.

Then comes this: "There is no security in place to protect from attack by aircraft,". This, from a guy who bitches about how much nuclear power plants cost. You'll note that he doesn't have any proposals for how this ought to be done. More on this in another item.

Now this:"no security in place around [nuclear] waste product." Sorry, but this is simply wrong, at least at the 4 plants where I worked onsite. But if he doesn't like it, there's an extensively investigated facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada where the waste can be stored *very* securely in a place that's already godforsaken. Funny - Markey doesn't like that either. He doesn't want answers, he wants issues.

Understand that talking about security publicly is dirty pool in any case, because one very important aspect of a security system is to keep its features secret. You don't
want to let attackers study it for vulnerabilities. Markey in essence is using the same strategy Bill Clinton used against Ken Starr.

More to follow under another heading.

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