I have so many things I could say, but they all reduce to 'too little, too late.' --MW Posted at 8:59 a.m. PDT Monday, April 27, 1998 Feds review response to chemical attacks WASHINGTON (AP) -- Fearing the nation may not be prepared to handle a chemical weapons attack, the Clinton administration is conducting a review of the nation's readiness. Almost a year in the works, the report is expected to yield two new directives from President Clinton on enhancing the nation's ability to fend off chemical and biological weapons and computer attacks, and on responding swiftly if these occur, according to a White House official who spoke Sunday on condition of anonymity. The review addresses several ``transnational threats,'' including terrorism, international crime and attacks on critical infrastructure, the official said. The official would not say when Clinton might issue the directives. In Congress, the General Accounting Office has conducted a series of hearings and reports on the issue. Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri, ranking Democrat on the House National Security Committee, complained last week that fighting terrorists in America is not the responsibility of any single government agency. Skelton urged Congress Thursday to order the 43 agencies involved to develop government-wide priorities, create a chain of command and get training and equipment to local law enforcement agencies. ``There's a great uncertainty as to who's in charge, who coordinates it, who offers people to the scene and who works on preventing it,'' Skelton said. ``I think it's going to be a year before you have any answer.'' His remarks came a day after Attorney General Janet Reno and FBI Director Louis J. Freeh told a Senate panel the administration is working on a new directive outlining federal roles for counterterrorism. It would replace the directive issued after the April 19, 1995, Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people and injured hundreds more. They gave no indication when it would be ready for Clinton's signature Freeh said he was resisting a suggestion within the administration to put the Secret Service -- instead of the FBI -- in charge of counterterrorism activities. The need to address terrorism has taken on a new urgency in light of several incidents, domestically and abroad, since Clinton took office in 1993. In addition to the Oklahoma City bombing, six people were killed and 1,000 injured in 1993 when a terrorist bomb blew up at the World Trade Center in New York. Concern swelled among U.S. officials in March 1995, when a Japanese cult carried out a lethal nerve gas attack on the subway in Tokyo, killing 12 and injuring 5,000. Later that year, Iraq admitted having built a large arsenal of biological weapons -- and had been ready to use it four years earlier during the Gulf War. Freeh testified last week that a national stockpile of vaccines, antibiotics and antidotes might be created to save lives in the wake of a terrorist attack. The ongoing review also is analyzing the needs of cities as they come up with a chemical attack response plan. That research involves the Pentagon, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Public Health Service.
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