Oct. 22, 2009 — -- Almost two years after the passage of a law designed to make it harder for terrorists to build homemade bombs, the Department of Homeland Security has yet to implement it.
"This delay in implementing the rules for ammonium nitrate regulation is unacceptable. We are talking about matters of life and death," says Rep. Pete King (R-NY), the Republican ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security. "The Department of Homeland Security must move quickly."
Congressman Bennie Thompson (D-MS), Chairman of House Committee on Homeland Security, agrees that the delays have been frustrating and worrisome. "Congress addressed the threat of ammonium nitrate through legislation over two years ago. Regulating the sale of this chemical is vital to the security of the nation."
The Department of Homeland Security issued a statement saying that the "Notice of Proposed Rulemaking" is complete and that they are in the final stages of internal vetting.
The release of surveillance videos and other evidence from the "Toronto 18" terror case this week showing members of an alleged Canadian terror cell unloading bags labeled ammonium nitrate into a storage locker, as well as the recent case of an Afghan in Denver, Najibullah Zazi, who is accused of plotting to make homemade bombs, is a reminder that ammonium nitrate is still a highly sought after bomb ingredient by potential terrorists.
"Northern Exposure," a joint FBI and Canadian sting operation in 2006, brought attention to the ease with which would-be terrorists could get their hands on sizeable amounts of potential bomb making materials, not only in Canada, but in the US as well, where there were few restrictions on purchases of the commonly used fertilizer.
Ammonium nitrate fertilizer, when mixed with fuels like diesel to make the explosive ANFO (ammonium nitrate/fuel oil), was the key bomb-making ingredient used in several notorious terrorist attacks: the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa.