Lobbyists Resisting 9/11 Security Upgrades

By Brian Ross And Rhonda Schwartz

Sep 11, 2006 11:58am

Lobbyists for farmers, retailers and television station owners are fighting a wide range of proposed laws to improve security and recommendations from the 9/ll Commission. "It’s really, frankly, a damning testimony about the system and the influence of special interests here in Washington," says Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who is particularly upset with broadcasters. The 9/ll Commission recommended a portion of the broadcast frequency used by television stations be turned over to emergency first responders next year.  The broadcasters, including ABC, want to stick to a previously planned date of 2009. "Why are we waiting to save lives?" asked McCain in a report to be broadcast on a special ABC News program this evening. The broadcasters are literally "putting lives at risk," McCain said. The broadcasters say viewers turn to them during emergencies for critical information, and at least 75 stations would lose a significant number of viewers who have no cable and whose televisions are not digital-ready if forced to abandon their frequencies before 2009.  Other proposed security improvements include a federal law requiring background checks and registration of anyone buying ammonium nitrate, a chemical fertilizer that can also serve as a devastating bomb-making material. The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Pete King (R-NY), tells ABC News that lobbyists for the American Farm Bureau have blocked the proposal. "I think they are making a mistake of not seeing the impact this has on the country and the world as a whole," King told ABC News. Ammonium nitrate, widely available at farm stores, used by terrorists worldwide, most recently in the bombs placed on trains this summer in Mumbai, India. An ABC News undercover investigation found strangers with cash could easily acquire lethal quantities of ammonium nitrate, with virtually no questions asked. King says he was forced to accept a watered-down version of his bill because of the Farm Bureau opposition that background checks would be an unfair burden on farmers. "I’ll tell you, I wish it was stronger," King said. In yet another example of the power of special interests, lobbyists for major retailers, including Wal-Mart, are fighting against proposals that would require l00 percent of shipping containers be inspected for possible radiological or nuclear material. The retailers say they have improved their own internal security, and inspecting their containers would needlessly delay the delivery of foreign goods to store shelves. "This is a classic case of commerce trumping conscience and security," said Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA), who is sponsoring the legislation. Click here to go to the Brian Ross homepage, where you can watch a preview of the undercover investigation.

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