Per the House HSC Dems’ website, the committee today unanimously passed a bill, H.R. 3197, to enhance and control the security of ammonium nitrate, the fertilizer used to make the explosives in the attack on the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995. The press release about the passage of the bill is here. The Senate version of the bill, S. 1141, is pending.
The passage of this bill into law will represent a very positive example of public-private sector cooperation on homeland security. The Fertilizer Institute stepped forward to devise a responsible approaching to controlling trade in ammonium nitrate while ensuring that farmers still have legal access, and Congress is now in the process of passing this plan. The Institute’s testimony about the bill is here.
It will be important, however, for law enforcement officials and industry to remain vigilant after the passage of the bill. Even with new regulations in place, risks will remain. Terrorists and their sympathizers might try to form legitimate front companies to buy ammonium nitrate. They might try to buy it from unscrupulous middlemen. They might steal it, or smuggle it into the country. The passage and implementation of the bill will have a strong value both in terms of prevention and deterrence, but threats posed by ammonium nitrate as an explosive will not disappear.
ps. For international comparison, Australia is in the process of implementing a similar law this year, largely in response to the 2002 bombings in Bali.