Thursday, November 13, 2008

Westchester Guardian/The Advocate.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Advocate
Richard Blassberg

Governor Paterson Plays
High Stakes Russian Roulette

Perhaps it was all the attention to the Presidential election in the days immediately prior to last Tuesday, that obscured, or distracted, local attention from the sudden announcement, over a weekend, by Governor David Paterson, that he had decided to remove the National Guard, consisting of some 80 soldiers, as well as 15 Naval Militia members, from Governor Paterson Plays High Stakes Russian Roulette their assigned protection of the Indian Point Nuclear Power Facility in Buchanan.

A spokesperson for the Governor’s Office had insisted that the withdrawal of military protection was not a measure intended to save money, some $6.5 million, but, rather, as Morgan Hook put it, “This is part of a broader reevaluation of how best to use New York’s
National Guard strength to protect the State.”

It is difficult to imagine a site that is more vulnerable, or potentially harmful to more people than the Indian Point installation. We
would ask the Governor, “Where might you otherwise wish to deploy those 95 military personnel that, at any moment, 24/7, is more critical,

more essential, yet potentially deadly, to so many millions of people in the Tri-state area?”

We are told that the State’s strategy for security and protection of sites such as power plants, train stations, and tourist attractions, “has
shifted from fixed patrols to flexible threat-based rapid response units.” We are further informed that months ago the Governor had pulled an equal number of National Guard personnel from two upstate power plants, and that, furthermore, patrols in Grand Central Station have been significantly reduced.

We believe Governor Paterson is making a very serious miscalculation. To begin with, power plants situated in Oswego and Lake Ontario
radius. to bring about major damage or harm, either to infrastructure or to masses of persons, respectively, or both, would need to bring their Weapon of Mass Destruction to the site, or near it. Whereas, the potential element of mass destruction from the perspective of human health and safety, in the case of Indian Point, is already at the site: two nuclear reactors and an enormous number of spent fuel rods.

And, it’s not as though the private security employed by Entergy, the installation’s owner, has had a sterling record, one that would
inspire confidence in the minds of the millions who live around ground zero should the plant be targeted and attacked. Since as far back as 2002, and clearly before 9/11 as well, there have been numerous incidents involving drugs, alcohol, and sleeping on the job by
Indian Point security guards.

What comfort can be drawn from those incidents? The fact is, residents mindful of such failures have always drawn what little reassurance
they could from the fact that the National Guard was there. We take little comfort from the notion that under the shifting or rotating scheduling of troops “a potential attacker can’t predict” where the troops are stationed. We take less comfort from the knowledge that the private security force is “monitored by the Nuclear Regulatory Agency.”

Equally alarming in Paterson’s unilateral action, is the statement from Entergy, the plant operator, that they were not privy to the Governor’s plans. River Keeper which has other issues as well, ecological issues, with Indian Point, released the statement, “The private security forces have shown to be overworked under-gunned, and under-manned.”Their program director, Philip Musegaas, declared, “It’s a great concern to us that
the Governor would pull the National Guard and the Naval Militia.”

This is a critical issue. This is not a matter with which we can afford to mis-calculate. The notion of “quick response” is essentially as
wrong-headed as government can get with regard to the certain catastrophe that would result from even a moderately successful attack on the Indian Point Nuclear Plant. The object of a heavily armed, and numerically strong, presence, we believe, has always been to dissuade, and, if necessary, fend off any ground-based, marine or aerial attack.

Once there has been penetration, what difference will it make, even if forces arrive minutes later, and snuff out every terrorist infiltrator,
if, in fact, they have succeeded in carrying out their mission. Millions of lives will have been placed at risk, and unprecedented longterm
health and safety implications will then abound.

Governor Paterson cannot tell us, on the one hand, that it’s not about money and, on the other hand, play Russian Roulette with our very lives and safety with a shifting about security force, at best capable of showing up minutes after the most unimaginable damage has been set
in motion.

It would appear, based upon the lethargy and lack of response to the Governor by persons such as Andrew Spano and Andrew Cuomo,
two former advocates for closure of the plant, that they are either too distracted, or asleep at the switch. Whichever the case, they need to be
firmly nudged because our safety hangs in the balance.

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