(Host) In the year after the September 11 attacks, the state launched a new program to respond to any terrorist incidents in Vermont. The state homeland security office also gathers intelligence on potential threats and works with other federal and state agencies. On Monday, public safety staff met with reporters to discuss Vermont’s anti-terrorism efforts.
VPR’s John Dillon has more.
(Dillon) State Police Lieutenant David Stanton says bucolic Vermont is not necessarily a backwater for terrorism. Stanton heads the new homeland security office. He says the potential targets here are public water supplies, chemical facilities, the transportation network and the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant. Vermont’s border with Canada is also a concern.
(Stanton) “Vermont is not a high profile target. But you have to remember when you say Vermont is sort of rural, we’re less than five hours from New York City, and less than three hours from Montreal. We do know from intelligence that there are a number of terrorist cells that work and operate in the Montreal area.”
(Dillon) New York has sent 100 additional state troopers to patrol its border with Canada. Stanton says the law enforcement presence in New York may lead potential terrorists to test weaknesses in Vermont border security.
(Stanton) “And with any criminal enterprise, and terrorism is a criminal enterprise, they realize that if the border in New York is hardened by additional troopers, that’s going to make them look for areas that easier to get through. And that includes Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire and we’re aware of that issue.”
(Dillon) The new homeland security unit has set up training courses for emergency workers around the state. The office also works with the Health Department on bio-terrorism issues.
Stanton appeared at a news conference with law enforcement and emergency workers from around the state. All said they were working hard to work well together.
(Stanton) “We have a lot more work to be done, we’ve done a lot of work. But we have a very, as you can see, a very close working group right here. Statewide it’s like this. I was down in Brattleboro last week and I heard the same things down there. So statewide this group is tight.”
(Dillon) Federal money has funded the terrorism response and emergency training: $1.1 million in federal grants has already come in. The state just learned it will get another $2.7 million in federal aid.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Williston.