Fertilizer for bombs remains unregulated

Published: Sunday, April 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, April 1, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

WASHINGTON - Despite the nation's post-9-11 scramble to protect America from sophisticated chemical and biological attacks, it remains possible for an evildoer to assemble a fertilizer bomb on U.S. soil and wreak destruction of the magnitude Tim McVeigh did 12 years ago.

The common fertilizer ammonium nitrate - which McVeigh and his accomplice mixed with fuel oil and packed into a rental truck that brought down the federal building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995 - still is unregulated by the federal government. The fertilizer industry and farm interests, among other lobbies, have successfully batted away multiple attempts to do so.

This past week, a bipartisan alliance of House lawmakers decided to try again, introducing a measure that would give the Department of Homeland Security the power to oversee the sale and purchase of the fertilizer.

This version is a watered-down sequel to earlier bills, but its odds of passage are likely little better.

Speaking of homeland security, one of the feds' cutting-edge programs is under attack on Capitol Hill. At issue is the "Puppy Program'' of the Transportation Security Administration, which is selectively breeding canines with exceptional sniffing talent to produce a long-term dog force for use in detecting explosives or other nefarious items at airports around the country.

This has raised the hackles of Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who says the government should get its nose out of this multimillion-dollar business. "I've got nothing against puppies,'' Flake said, but "surely this is a job better suited for the private sector.'' QUOTABLE: "I have to admit we really blew the way we let those (U.S.) attorneys go. You know you botched it when people sympathize with lawyers.''

- President Bush, at the Radio and Television Correspondents' annual dinner

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